Hughes' firing adds to sense of crisis at Southampton

ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 04, 2018 07:53 AM
Hughes' firing adds to sense of crisis at Southampton
Southampton's manager Mark Hughes gives instructions from the side line during the English Premier League soccer match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's stadium in Southampton, England Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press

Mark Hughes was fired after eight months as manager of English Premier League struggler Southampton on Monday, adding to the sense of crisis on and off the field at the beleaguered south-coast club.

Hughes' departure came less than a month after Southampton parted company with vice chairman Les Reed and technical director Martin Hunter, citing the need for new direction to a team in danger of slipping out of the lucrative division.

Southampton is third-to-last in the standings, with a Premier League-low one win from its first 14 matches. The final game of Hughes' underwhelming tenure was a 2-2 home draw against Manchester United on Saturday, during which Southampton squandered a two-goal lead.

Hughes managed to preserve Southampton's top-flight status last season after joining in March with the team one place above the relegation zone, but it has failed to kick on this season. Southampton won only five of 27 games in all competitions under Hughes.

Former Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl — without a job after leaving the German club in the offseason — has been linked with the vacancy in the British media, with Southampton reportedly keen on hiring a coach for the future rather than a so-called "firefighter" to get the team out of relegation danger.

Whoever is hired will be Southampton's fourth permanent manager in 18 months.

Assistant coach Kelvin Davis will take charge of Southampton's next game, against Tottenham on Wednesday, and he said he thought a permanent appointment will be made before the weekend.

"I'm taking the team up until Wednesday," Davis said on Monday, "and we'll see after that."

Southampton, which has been in the Premier League since 2012, is paying the price for having its squad slowly dismantled by the country's richest clubs each offseason.

The club's envied academy system — which brought through players like Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw — and astute scouting strategy meant Southampton has been one of English soccer's success stories in recent years.

But there has been a sad regression because it hasn't been able to keep hold of its best players.

Virgil van Dijk, Toby Alderweireld, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Shaw are among the players who have been sold since 2014.

Southampton has attempted to replace the players the club sold for big money with cheaper ones from across Europe and beyond, but it is a recruitment strategy that might have finally caught up with them.

Southampton was the sixth Premier League club that Hughes has coached. In January, he was fired by Stoke, which ended up getting relegated.

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