Southampton's Godfather And The Swiss Deserve?
In the history of Southampton football club there are certain things that have been near guarantees. Famous final day escapes, shock results, and youth players who go on to play for our national side.
Plus chances are there will be a boardroom of buffoons running the club such as Rupert Lowe.
Though looking at the rest of the south coast clubs over the years, that seems to be the norm in our county.
However, have we been so used to a board of opinionated simpletons that we have become the most satirical of sceptics? Has the glass been so half empty, that at every optimistic turn for the better it is blasted as bad management?
Based on what I`ve seen this is very much the case in parts of our fan base.
Step forward Nicola Cortese and the Swiss benefactor Markus Liebherr. One has worked for many years as a sports banker who attracted the interest of AC Milan amongst others, and yet despite these accolades, there is a section of our supporters who still seem to brand him as a bad businessman.
The other is Markus Liebherr, a Swiss billionaire from a highly respected business dynasty (a Rothschild equivalent in Switzerland), proclaimed as a 'gentle giant` by Alan Pardew, during an interview by Sky sports. Certainly more legitimate than the kebab shop owners and local bar owners who ended up at the helm at Fratton Park.
And yet, despite all of their credentials and indisputable success, they are at times accused of being fools. Yet when you look at Portsmouth`s ownership crisis and the chaos that is happening there, we come to realise just how lucky we are to have Nicola and Markus on board.
The first inclination of this was in October when the story was leaked about the mystery club interested in appointing Nicola, the club later being confirmed as AC Milan. A section of supporters seemed ready to accept defeat by heavily criticising his commitment, even before he could comment on the story.
He even came out and publically rejected an offer from one of the greatest clubs on the planet, champions league football and working for the Italian president (who is the owner of AC Milan), which is quite possibly one of the most lucrative jobs in football.
I`m sure the money wouldn`t be that bad either. And then proclaiming Southampton as his 'baby`, and stating quite unmistakably that he had passion as well as commitment towards our great club didn't seem to quell the unconvinced moaners.
That in itself should be a reason to wholeheartedly support the Liebherr/Cortese leadership.
Then came the ban of the Daily Echo from the club. There was a mixed reaction on this one, some were in full support of the management but there was once again a section of supporters who accused Cortese of Egomania.
Egomania? Or perhaps a betrayal from the media.
Football clubs have certain deals with the regional and national media about club announcements, the club give out information to the media and in exchange the media respect the clubs wishes on when it is to be announced. There is not an official contract so the Daily Echo could publish the information whenever they wanted to.
However despite being totally legal, breaking the trust of someone who gives you confidential information is indecent, and considering the media has dictated to football clubs for so long on what they can and cannot do, I was thoroughly proud when our club stood up and said enough was enough.
And yet both times the club explained its reasons to the fans on why they took the decision, certainly more honest than previous administrations.
You would assume that after this, the scepticism over the new ownership would be well and truly overruled by pride and jubilation that for once, we actually had some stability. Not So.
However when Cortese stated In an interview that he wasn`t happy with recent performances (Tranmere and Brentford respectively), some fans quickly saw this as a statement that Pardew was to be sacked, this being the brainchild story thought up by the sensationalist kings at the Daily Mail.
What the fans seemed to forget was the simple fact that they were not happy either.
The papers spiel was made so believable that
fans chose to believe a sensationalist newspaper, and what was a cheap spin on an otherwise true statement, over the executive who has put everything on the line, to save our club and make it prosper. Am I the only one who sees that as blind pessimism?
What`s worse is that this story escalated, a lack of statement was leached upon by the sensationalists as a sign that the end was nigh for Pardew, with more opinionated stories being released about his successor.
Has anyone thought about the possibility that there was a deeper reason for this?
Perhaps Nicola Cortese didn`t release a statement because he wanted to teach the media a few lessons, as well as make a statement to us supporters. He let the media speculate over new managers and spurt out story after story and he let them believe they`re own hype.
Even the clubs former players such as Le Tissier and Mc Menemy, people considered to be the greatest people to ever be associated with the club joined the media like piranhas to a fresh steak. Both coming out in favour of the manager.
He let them speculate and build up a huge web of stories to a point that even the most loyal of fans began to question.
He then came out and made a statement at the last minute. The media who had spent so long building this entire list of claims had finally persuaded some supporters to believe they`re sensationalist stories were put to the sword at the last minute.
Was it bad PR? Or was it an attempt to show the media that the club was not to be influenced by the newspapers? And perhaps to show us fans that we are too gullible sometimes? And perhaps after all our scepticism its time to finally accept them as who they are.
I certainly believe so.
As the season came to a close fans were already eagerly anticipating the new season tickets coming out on sale, but the media seemed to have completely forgot they`re lesson just weeks before and decided to start the rumour mill.
With absolutely no inclination from the club, the newspapers reported that the club was planning a centenary £125 season ticket offer, a completely barking suggestion if you ask me.
Getting the fans buzzed up on what was a very unrealistic prospective offer, I mean most league 2 clubs charge a lot more for season tickets.
What was worse than these outrageous claims? The fact that some fans were near on angry about the fact that season tickets weren`t set at those prices, saying that it would fill the stadium and such. But if you charged £5 per match (which was the rough calculation on £125 a year) at this level, you could fill any stadium with the exception of MK dons.
In theory any club could do this, but they don`t for the simple reason that its commercial suicide. Perhaps with Liebherr at the helm we have enough money to charge those prices even if only for a season, but considering he has already poured millions into the club why are some people still demanding more money signings and commercially unviable prices?
Why can`t some people appreciate what Nicola and Markus have done for this club?
The main sticking points of the new prices were the exclusion of a payment plan, but once again rather than look at this logically some people quickly turned on the management with a tirade of anger over being 'abandoned`.
And yes I have to admit that even on this site we had posts and articles which seemed totally anti the club and it's new chairman.
And yet many of these fans failed to look at the reasons the club gave. People were using a payment plan put out by Cortese and Liebherr (a service that they do not legally need to provide may I add) as a means to get a free season ticket. When you go through the effort to put out a deal like that, only to have people cancelling they`re direct debits, that`s just a real slap in the face.
Of course the majority of people who use it have done so fairly and legitimately, but the blame should lie with the minority of fans who abused it rather than the provider.
Then came the shirt release - with a commemorative special edition scarf for anyone who bought a shirt on the release day. Once again the term 'abandonment` was used, why? For me, that was a business tactic to get more sales on the first day, simple.
In fact it`s a stroke of genius. What Cortese has done is increased sales on the first day, nothing wrong with that, he has created a product with limited supply, bad commercial planning? Or creating interest in the product?
Chances are the people who were lucky enough to get one will wear it proudly at SMS, those who weren`t so lucky will look on in frustration, even those who wouldn`t have bought the scarf would suddenly want it simply because Cortese has built this system of there being only a limited amount of scarf`s.
That above statement sounds completely barking, but he has increased shirt sales as well as ticket sales to the opening event immensely by this promise and if enough people get riled up about wanting one, what`s to stop him selling them to the masses in the future? Because he never ruled that out.
With the season about to start as well, it seems the expectations of some fans has soared, here comes the transfer market!
Despite the pre season being still a few weeks away there has been demands for more investment into the team, a bit rich considering the investment that they have already ploughed into the club, and as much as I`m not doubting that we need new players to replace the outgoing 13, a section of supporters believe that we HAVE to spend over a million once again.
Considering most League 1 clubs don`t spend at all, the demand that the owners should provide even more millions to strengthen and in some cases provide backup is passing the barrier of over-expectance and entering the realm of ungratefulness.
Alan Pardew has gone on record as saying that suitable players will be brought in when they become available. For me that is more than good enough.
Markus and Nicola are here to make us successful by responsible spending, not running us into millions of debt and risking our future. And by buying lots of new players and building an unsustainable wage budget its not only going to make the club unprofitable, it`s going to upset the nucleus of what is a fantastic team.
Considering all of that, and the future they are building for this club by investing in the infrastructure, not to mention the fact that they saved our beloved Southampton from being no more, can we now put our scepticism behind us and accept that the past is the past. And realise that they are our future?
I for one sincerely hope so.
Red army comrade
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