Saints mourn their saviour

FourFourTwo.com blogger and Southampton fan Chris Cox pays tribute to the man who saved the South Coast club from extinction

Yesterday, Southampton Football Club was left in a state of shock and disbelief at the passing of a man who can only be described in just one word. Saviour.

A man whose sheer passion for the game and desire for success kept the game going in the city of Southampton following its darkest hour. Markus Liebherr is a man who will be sorely missed.

In times like these, it is easy for people with little or no association to jump on a bandwagon and act as if they knew the victim. The majority of Southampton fans didn’t know the man himself, but they didn’t need to know him on a personal level.

His incredible gesture of taking a football club with no hope, shattered pride and most of all no future, was one that filled every Southampton fan with delight. The trip to Wembley last season underlined it all. People could be proud to call themselves Southampton fans once again.

Perhaps one regret fans will have is that owing to the hype of Mr Liebherr’s takeover in 2009 they probably never thought to stop and take a moment to thank him and his team for their purchase of the club.

Sadly the chance to do so has now passed, as is often the way with these things. But every single fan, regardless of whether they agree with the club’s current operational procedure or not, will be thankful to Mr Liebherr for everything he did.

From the outside looking in it would appear that Southampton’s fan base is divided over the club’s movements off the field recently. Everything from staff car parking to the restriction of press photographers on matchdays have caused unrest. Noses have been put out of joint, but Mr Liebherr’s death puts it all into perspective; Quite simply without him there would be no club to have debates over.

It looks as if the club is being run in a way that ensures that it has a long term future, with all possible revenue streams being tapped, ensuring that Southampton is run as a real business, and not some sort of Chelsea or Manchester City of the Football League.

Rather than simply taking money from the owner and putting it into where funding is needed, the club appears to be making an effort to be self-sufficient. If that is to happen, tough decisions have to be made.

Whether or not the club is profitable, or even still operating ten years down the line will be the ultimate judgement of whether decisions over the simplest things such as club photography are the correct ones to make.

Whatever you may think of the way Southampton Football Club is being run, the reaction in the football community speak volumes. The match against MK Dons has been postponed. When football heroes pass on, a minute’s applause or silence is the biggest gesture on offer. The Football League, which many would call an enemy of the club when it concluded that it should be deducted ten points, effectively cutting its Championship throat, issued a statement mourning Mr Liebherr. Clearly it can’t all be bad.

The club is insisting that its future and goals remain the same. A return to the top flight was the late owner’s dream and now there is no bigger catalyst to drive the team towards the Premier League than to do it to preserve the memory of the man that did so much in such a small amount of time.

Everyone associated with the club should take their time to mourn Mr Liebherr’s passing then do all they can to ensure that the potential of the club is realised, one step at a time – beginning with promotion to the Championship.

Thank you Mr Liebherr, on behalf of all Southampton fans.

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