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    The Southampton Way

    Cast your mind back. In the Summer of 2009 Southampton Football Club were on a slippery slope into oblivion. The South Coast Team were in administration and had just been relegated into the third tier of English Football for the first time in nearly 50 years. The club were starting the next campaign with a hefty points deduction due to administration and no one wiling to buy them. There seemed there was no future for the 1976 FA Cup Winners.

    WRONG. Markus Liebherr purchased the club with one ambition. To return to the Premier League within five years. Again wrong. It took them three. Liebherr quickly appointed the ambitious Nicola Cortese as Chairman, to drive every part of the club to be the best it could be. This was followed by statement of intent by appointing Alan Pardew, a proven Premier League Manager. The rest as they say is history.

    Cortese wanted to create a blueprint for the club to be able to achieve sustained success that is partly based on the Barcelona model. The club quickly penned a style of play that would be played by the first team all the way down to the under 9's in the Academy which would provide an identity that would be associated with Southampton Football Club.

    For this to be achieved, the board that traditionally focused on financial gain needed a member who was a Football man and not driven by the financial side. In walked former Charlton manager Les Reed, who know oversees all Football decisions at board level to ensure that the Football Team do not suffer at the hands of people who do not understand the game, as well maintaining that stability is maintained even when playing or managerial personal change.

    Similar to the success Barcelona have had with their youth set up and the famous La Masia, Southampton wanted to develop their own for the world to stare enviously at. To aid this, the Academy was restructured to give every young player entering the system a chance of one day playing for the first team. The youth system already had a fantastic record producing the likes of Theo Walcott, Adam Llalana and the now Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, so it was more about enhancing rather than reinventing the wheel. This has been a proven success, since the takeover Saints have produced the likes of Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Callum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Harrison Reed and Matt Target, as well as others.

    Even though the Football romantic in all of us would love to see a first team made up of Academy graduates, in the modern game it is virtually impossible to achieve this and challenge at the top of the league. With this in mind, Southampton have a very clear and precise transfer policy. The club does not seem to get into the rat race of buying big name players for large sums and risk them not fitting into the team thus squandering millions. Through their performance analysis department they monitor all the major leagues in the world and highlight players who fit into their system and philosophy of play. This ensures that when players leave or if there is a weak area within the squad that there is no panic buying as there are a number of players who have already been identified as possible replacements. This would explain the calmness and confidence of the club whilst fans and journalists were all doom and gloom as five key players left in the Summer of 2014.

    This cautious but calculated approach does not just lend itself to the playing staff. At the end of the 2013/14 season, then manager Mauricio Pochettino decided to move on to Tottenham. The club needed a new manager to continue the good work conducted by the Argentine. It would have been easy to appoint a
    proven big name manger. But the proven gaffer would have his own philosophy and approach thus undoing the good work in laying the foundations for future success undone. So Les Reed headed the search for a manger who shared a similar philosophy already in place. In stepped Ronald Koeman who has had moderate success as a manger but has been an instant success with his team challenging for a Champions League place immediately.

    The motto of the club is to 'never stand still'. This is evident in everything they do. The training ground based in the sleepy village of Marchwood has been re-developed boasting facilities one could only dream of as a Southampton player six years ago. Additionally, it has been reported that all Academy players now have mini-i pads where they can analyse their own performance to enhance development. Furthermore, there is now talk of increasing the stadium capacity to cater for the ever increasing demand for tickets.

    The question now is, Can the success achieved in the last six years going form bottom of League 1 to the verge of Champions League qualification be sustained? The answer is yes. The only question mark is if Southampton can survive another summer selling their best players and bring in similar quality as in 2014. Everything is in place to have sustained success and the approach should be a fine example of what smaller clubs can achieve with a little ambition. Only time will tell if this is long term or just flash in the pan.

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    Item Reviewed: The Southampton Way Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Nathan Cornick
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