Saints fans on Adkins - Part 1
Vital Reading is conducting a number of interviews with Southampton fans about our new boss Nigel Adkins over the next few days, and what they think of their former manager. Today is chance for Saints fan Connor Armstrong (@ConnorArmstrong) to reveal all about the new man at the helm. He gives a fantastic in-depth analysis of his time at Saints, his choice of tactics and his controversial dismissal.
Nigel was somewhat of a revelation for us. Despite concerns about Adkins being a low-profile appointment with only experience at Scunthorpe on his CV in English football - he was a breath of fresh air. Adkins became the face of 'The Southampton Way' that our chairman, Nicola Cortese would often speak of. Attacking, fast-paced, possession football. Adkins from day one instilled a philosophy of 'passing the football, but passing with a purpose'. He quickly set about altering the dynamics of a previously more direct side that he had inherited from Alan Pardew.
He'd inherited a very good squad but seemed to get those extra few % out of each player, and it was under his leadership that Rickie Lambert really flourished. Already a player with a great brain and a natural ability to score goals, Adkins utilised him as much more than a target man. Even this season, Lambert has been involved in 43.9% of our goals. Change took time to occur, and it wasn't a blistering start from Adkins - but within a few weeks the tweaks and changes he was implementing became clear. He is a character which is brimful of positivity, it may drive you mad - but he is passionate about what he does and how he does it.
He left us with the highest win percentage of any Southampton manager, and held a reputation as everyone's favourite uncle as it were. A wonderfully positive and pleasant individual, with strong confidence and belief in everything he did. A man of the people, if you'd like to put it that way. This was largely why many people were so distraught at his sacking. One story I will mention is that Nigel refused to even discuss a move with Southampton, despite encouragement to move before a compensation package had been settled with Scunthorpe. He refused, and demanded that Scunthorpe receive a fair and just settlement.
As previously mentioned, from the very moment he stepped through the door at St. Mary's, he went on about passing the football and looking to win games in a positive manner. During Nigel's spell at the club in League One and the Championship, he would usually set up in a standard 4-4-2, but would on occasion vary his side to play a diamond formation. However, on promotion to the Premier League we saw a shift to 4-2-3-1, although just how much of this philosophy was Nigel's input remains unanswered. Adkins would look for the back four to be comfortable with the ball and work it up the field. It was a pretty standard 4-4-2 but he was comfortable with players roaming from positions when the opportunity was present.
However, one notable weakness this season from Adkins was his dithering over the goalkeepers' shirt. He started the season, perhaps sentimentally, with Kelvin Davis - before switching to the inexperienced Paulo Gazzaniga. Adkins, it transpired had stated his confidence in the two goalkeepers (who were making many costly howlers) - but the chairman brought in Artur Boruc. Adkins continued to dither for some time before settling with Boruc as #1. At the start of this season, we were conceding goals by the bucket-load, and Adkins then went the other way.
Notably against Manchester United - Saints got into a 2-1 lead, before taking off Puncheon, Lambert and Lallana - our three most potent attacking players at this time. The team then sat behind the ball and the rest is history. We lost 3-2 in injury time after sitting off of United too much. Another criticism levelled at Adkins was that he was often slow to make substitutions, but generally he is tactically aware - certainly in the Championship and League One where he made many good decisions to spin games back in our direction. Oh, and if you ask him to wave - he will just clap you!
At the time of the announcement, Saints fans were stunned at Adkins' removal from the position of First Team Manager. It came on the back of a fantastic 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, and after an upturn in form. It was a surprising time for the announcement, and no sooner had Nigel Adkins been sacked - Mauricio Pochettino was being introduced to the media. Leading up to the sacking, for a series of months the stands had boomed out their support for Nigel in the form of 'There's only one Nigel Adkins!' and 'Nigel Adkins' red army!'.
Had Adkins been sacked in November it would have perhaps been more understandable, after some lacklustre displays and whilst we were visibly struggling. However, many Saints fans felt Adkins achievements in gaining two consecutive promotions had earned him the right to a full Premier League season, regardless of results. The conduct of the fans in the wake of Adkins' sacking was admirable.
There were bursts of 'One Nigel Adkins' but a desire to avoid mirroring the farcical situation at Chelsea.
Fans continued to support the side and the new manager, Mauricio Pochettino. The vast majority of Saints fans were absolutely gutted to lose not only a record-breaking, history-making manager, but a top bloke in the process. Many didn't understand what the chairman was thinking and doubted how positive a change of manager could be in mid-January. A ruthless, but shrewd move at this moment in time, as we have continued to go from strength-to-strength.