In this day and age in Premier League football, no manager is safe.
Mauricio Pellegrino was the latest casualty, which brought little surprise as Southampton’s shocking run of form continued at the hands of Newcastle, who comfortably took three points after a 3-0 win. The following day resulted in Pellegrino’s departure. A collective sigh of relief could be felt around the South coast as the lack of goals and attacking flair in the side has little or no reflection of the Southampton from recent years.
The search for a new manager was short. Wednesday the 14th of March saw the appointment of former player Mark Hughes, who was given a contract that will be seen out until the end of the season.
A Premier League veteran, with 335 appearances as a player in the English top flight and previously managing Manchester City and Stoke, bringing Stoke to their highest ever finish in the League (9th). The evident objective for Southampton is to stay in the Premier League, with Hughes finishing eight out of his 14 seasons in the Premier League in the top half, there looks like no better man for the job at such short notice.
Hughes has been noted as a large character in the changing room, seemingly what the Saints require most at this time after the lacklustre enthusiasm of Pellegrino. Hughes had little time to adapt to the squad with his first game in charge coming on Sunday the 18th against Wigan in the FA Cup, a team high in confidence after defeating Premier League leaders Manchester City in the previous round. A game at Wembley in the semi-finals of the FA cup on the line. Second half goals from Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares saw Southampton go through to the next round.
A run in the FA Cup is always something to take pride in, the form just needs to be transferred in to points to carry them through to the end of the season. The 3-0 loss to West Ham United, however, will pose serious questions of Hughes and his staff, with Saints are in danger of pulling a Wigan, winning the FA Cup and being relegated in the same season.
With Charlie Austin back in the squad after a long injury, Saints’ season may not end in tears. Hughes has a big mountain to climb, but certainly not an impossible one.
Written by Niall Henry.