Could Southgate be the man for Saints?

We are part of The Trust Project What is it? contributor Carl Burkitt thinks the former Boro boss could be just the man for Southampton...

A 4-0 victory away at, the currently inconsistent but always difficult, Bristol Rovers is never a just cause to get the sack.

According to rumours circling St Mary’s, that’s not the sole reason Alan Pardew lost his job, but on the surface, it looks like a terrible decision, and one many Saints fans aren’t too happy with.

On the back of a 3-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Swindon Town and a 2-0 home defeat to Rochdale, Chairman Nicola Cortese will be finally appointing the new boss this week. And although people with louder voices than me have expressed strong opinions about who should get it, it’s still worth running through some of the contenders.

Names such as Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, Martin O’Neill and Father Christmas have been chucked around as possible replacements. But these are unrealistic for countless reasons.

Two are currently understood to be happy with media roles, two won’t be keen on taking a job with an interfering chairman any time soon, and one - despite wearing the club colours – has absolutely no managerial experience.

Phil Brown and Gary Megson have both recently declared they want to get back in to management, but they’d probably jump at any job, and Southampton don’t need or deserve somebody desperate right now. Alan Curbishley’s name arises whenever a job comes available, and once the Aston Villa vacancy finally gets filled, I’m sure he’ll be back in line for the Saints job.

Reports and bookies are suggesting Cortese is thought to favour a young English manager, with the likes Exeter’s Paul Tisdale - who has recently pulled himself out of the running - Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and Scunthorpe’s Nigel Adkins leading the pack.

But for me, he is overlooking a young English manager deserving of a(nother) chance. A young English manager who may be worth a punt. A young English manager who I feel has learnt from his mistakes. Gareth Southgate.

Now, before Saints fans log off and call me all the names under the sun, hear me out.

The man got a lot of flack, but I believe unjustly.

He took over after a great season that saw Middlesbrough reach the UEFA Cup final and he replaced a man who was (at the time) held in high regard – so much so that he was named England manager.

Expectations were certainly high and his case wasn’t helped by the loss of big names such as big Mark Viduka, Yakubu and Jonathan Woodgate.

However rather than mope, he used the opportunity to nurture young English talent, such as Lee Cattermole, Adam Johnson and David Wheater, relying on their youth and eagerness as they played a predominate role in his attacking, youthful philosophy.

And it was this philosophy that won him several admirers. He took Boro to 12th in his first season, spanking Man City 8-1 in the process, prompting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to tip him to be a future England manager.

But despite playing attractive football, the thing that let Middlesbrough down was the lack of fight. For a team from the cold depths of the north, they were a side that appeared afraid to put a foot in.

If they went 1-0 down, it was basically game over. Their failure to mix fluency with fight in Southgate‘s second season in charge, resulted in the last thing a player and manager wants on their CV, relegation from the Premiership

Like all good managers, Southgate was aware of their frailties and aimed to address them. Speaking in an interview at the start of the 2009/2010 season he said: "When I took over I wanted to bring a certain style, a certain ethos, to the club. But ultimately you have to win matches.

"I'm responsible for the performance of the team. In my first two years I did pretty well, but not so well last year. We didn't have experienced players, the [Mark] Vidukas and [Jonathan] Woodgates, in the team any more, and the players needed managing differently. I didn't get that right."

And after a stuttering start, he got them to winning ways and things looked more positive, albeit a slow progression. However, in October 2009, Southgate was sacked merely hours after beating Derby County 2-0, with Boro sat in fourth place, one point off top of the table.

It must be said he also made a few dodgy signings, such as Alfonso Alves for £12.7 million and the portly Mido for £6 million. But in his defence, they both boasted a CV dripping with goals, they just didn’t leave continue in that vein at Boro. And in any case, name a top European manager who hasn’t made one, two or three poor signings.

Southgate generally comes across as intelligent, carries himself well and is one of the few pundits I find myself nodding along to.

No matter how much I plead his case though, it looks more and more like a lower league manager will take the job. Which is great, of course. It’s nice to see young English talent get the nod for a change.

I just feel Southampton have a great club with passionate fans, and English talent suited to attacking football. Perfect for Gareth Southgate to get his teeth stuck in to and kick-start the successful career he is destined to have.

Otherwise, I fear, his talents may just go wasted sat next to Andy Townsend. More to read...
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