Southampton are in critical condition.. is Doctor Martin the answer?
RUSSELL MARTIN keeps telling Southampton fans they must suffer pain before things get better … but they must be reaching for the morphine now at St Mary’s.
Put simply: the Saints are the sick men of the Championship.
And although ‘Doc Martin’ has made the correct diagnosis, he is struggling to find the remedy.
Southampton are beginning to look like they need to be taken to A&E and if things get any worse it’ll be intensive care.
It was painful enough crashing out of the Premier League after finishing rock bottom last season.
Then they had a whole glut of stars like James Ward-Prowse, Romeo Lavia and Tino Livramento surgically removed from the squad in the summer to ease a cash trauma.
But to then haemorrhage NINETEEN goals — the worst in the Championship — and lose four on the spin, Southampton after eight games look in a critical condition.
Martin himself did not fully comprehend the enormity of the job he was taking on in July — but he certainly knows now.
The Southampton boss is trying to change the whole culture at the club — the way they train, the way they bond and interact with one another, the way they connect with the fans and of course the way they play.
Martin told me during the week that there is a lot of “scar tissue” at Southampton — more than he ever thought — and that when a group of players are used to continued disappointment it takes more time to lift them.
Most read in Championship
HOW TO GET FREE BETS ON FOOTBALL
It is known that the mood is far better around Southampton’s training ground than it has been in recent seasons. There is a lot more energy around the place — which is no surprise given Martin’s full-throttle way of doing things.
He always wants his teams to be brave on the ball, not be scared to make mistakes, be on the front foot, keep possession and score goals.
Not being able to call on his star signing — striker Ross Stewart — because of injury has not helped on the scoring goals front.
And the “being brave on the ball” bit is seriously hurting them right now because so many times when they are trying to do just that they are losing possession inside their own third, and getting ruthlessly punished for it.
I’ve not seen any other Championship team make so many elementary mistakes this season than the Saints … although Norwich ran them a close second with their horror show at Plymouth on Saturday.
But all this is because Martin wants his teams to play this way and, because they’re in transition, they haven’t yet got the hang of it.
He wants time and patience to get it right.
But after the 2-1 loss at Middlesbrough on Saturday, he is now under huge pressure.
The Southampton board want to make an immediate return to the Premier League and this current run of results will be alarming them.
So while Martin wants players to be brave on the ball, will the club’s hierarchy be brave in the boardroom and stick with him?
They should give him time because they were the ones who bought into his vision.
When a club has been on a tailspin like Southampton, it’s crucial to first make sure you stop the rot. You regroup in the Championship before looking upwards again. It’s an extremely tough process and one that can be hard for fans of relegated clubs to take.
If Saints were to part company with Martin and rip up everything they wanted the future to look like, they could then run the risk of sinking even further.
Sunderland suffered back-to-back relegations from the Premier League to League One from 2017 to 2018. They let go of Simon Grayson in October before going for Chris Coleman. They could not stop losing and crashed into League One, which then took them four years to get out of.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Martin can lead a club out of the Championship.
So far in his managerial career he has won promotion out of League Two with MK Dons.
And he certainly looked like he was creating something exciting at Swansea. The seven wins and two draws from their last nine games saw them fall just three points short of making the Championship play-offs last season.
He should have stuck with the Swans given what he was doing there.
Now he is in danger of losing his job already with the Saints.
But if they were to get rid of him now, it could leave the sick men of the Championship on life support and it could be touch and go if they would be able to make it through.
Giggs would be a ‘no-brainer’ for Salford
RYAN GIGGS has been getting tipped for a return to management with Salford — the club he co-owns with his Class of 92 pals.
League Two hasn’t proved to be the cakewalk they thought it was going to be with the club now in their fifth season in the EFL.
Paul Scholes gave it a go for a few weeks as a caretaker after Gary Neville bizarrely sacked Graham Alexander in 2000.
And now Giggsy is said to be ready to step into Neil Wood’s shoes after five straight defeats leaves Salford fourth from bottom.
It has surprised me that during all the time the club have been in the EFL that none of their owners have decided to take up the managerial role.
When you have David Beckham, Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt among your owners, it is surely a no brainer that one of them should be leading the team.
If Giggsy does take up the job, it will be the most sensible thing they have done since getting promoted.
Moore back but sad to see Warnock go
GREAT to see Darren Moore back in management at Huddersfield.
The way he was treated by Sheffield Wednesday’s mad-cap owner Dejphon Chansiri after winning promotion from League One was nothing short of shameful.
Wednesday fans certainly let their feelings known at Swansea as they chanted against their Thai businessman as they lost 3-0 — leaving them stranded bottom of the Championship with just two points from eight games.
But while it is great to see Moore back in the dugout 25 miles up the road in Huddersfield, we’ll miss Neil Warnock … but no fear he will be back soon.
If anyone thinks the proud Yorkshireman is going to retire (again) after doing a superb job keeping the Terriers in the Championship, you can forget that.
He will pop somewhere later this season … but where?
Maybe Chansiri should get on the blower.
But, as Warnock is a boyhood Sheffield United fan and Bramall Lane legend, I think we all know what his answer will be!