Southampton fans like me will still be feeling a little numb after watching events unfold yesterday evening.
It is rare to see your team lose by a record-equalling margin once in your lifetime, let alone twice in the space of 16 months. We can say to people that we endured both games against Leicester and Manchester United.
What makes yesterday’s defeat stand out is that this one is so much more difficult to get our heads around. 2020/21 had been a success for Ralph Hasenhuttl and his players and we were looking forward to our team rekindling early season form in the second half of the campaign when players return to fitness.
Now we have to deal with another 9-0 loss though. Where did that come from? Judging by his post-match quotes, Ralph doesn’t quite know either.
What he did do is draw a line under what happened on the Old Trafford pitch. He’s moving on and is focused on the response that he and his team make, and that should be our focus too.
Blame for the latest loss has already been thrown in all directions. It’s normal to be concerned or angry after such a result, but the game is in the past once that final whistle blows. Now is the time for support, and that includes supporting Alex Jankewitz after the disgusting racial abuse he was subject to on social media.
The only thing we can do as fans is keep the faith. Hasenhuttl deserves it, the players deserve it and people working at the club deserve it. In the long run, we will get what we deserve as fans too if we focus on the bigger picture.
Who could have predicted that Saints would be having to deal with so much in this short space of time?
Firstly, the pandemic. It’s affected every part of our lives, including our football. Saints cannot welcome us to St Mary’s and have not been able to do so for a while – cutting off a main revenue stream and reducing that valuable contact with the people that make the club what it is.
There is no question that Saints would have been more active in the January transfer window had we not been in a pandemic. Other teams keeping their players for depth and a general lack of funds played a part this time around.
The financial strains have been a longer term problem than other pandemic-related issues though. Injuries, recovery and many other aspects cannot be managed to an optimum level like before as players do not have access to Cryotherapy or pool recovery techniques.
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Saints have got no choice but to keep functioning with what they have, which is exactly what we have to do in our everyday lives right now too. Keeping that faith in the club will help us and them look forward to the day that everything can get back to normal.
With the manager the club has at the moment, things were looking up and will continue to whilst he is at the helm. Figures like Martin Semmens and Matt Crocker (many others too) alongside Ralph are actively looking to improve things and are a sign of the beginnings of positive, long-term change at St Mary’s.
Other things Saints are dealing with right now are the injuries and the level of officiating they are encountering.
It is hugely unfortunate to have nine players out injured at one time, especially when they include so many vital players who were performing superbly in the early season run. The lack of recovery from Hasenhuttl’s high-intensity football plays a part, but it’s still rare to have so many on the treatment table at one time.
Some players are expected to return in the next couple of weeks so it is more realistic to expect better results then. By the end of this season, I’m convinced we will have seen plenty more wins and we’ll most definitely have Premier League football still. Just sit tight and get through this tough spell with the club.
Saints have been on the wrong end of four VAR decisions in the past two games too and, although this has only added further to a frustrating situation overall, it will perhaps prove positive in the fact that more doubts have been raised about the current rulings. The more doubt there is, the more it is likely that changes will be made in the future to make things clearer for teams and their fans and bring back the enjoyment of football.
This does not bring back any potential points that would have been gained from the Aston Villa game had other decisions been made but is, once again, something in the future that can be looked forward to. The Premier League are in danger of alienating their fans if changes aren’t eventually made.
As with any football club, there are still issues that need addressing. Ownership is one thing and crucial investment will further enable Saints to reach their full potential eventually. Those working at the club, including Katharina Liebherr, will be making sure it’s the right person buying the club from Gao Jisheng when that opportunity comes about.
Now though, it’s about getting past the issues confronting them now and heading towards those longer term goals in 2021/22 where things will hopefully be a bit more normal – they need us to support them on this journey and then eventually support from the stands when we can.
The foundations for a successful future are there but these problems have seen progress paused. Ralph and co certainly won’t be giving up what they’ve got and will want to see plans built upon until they reach a satisfying conclusion.
Why would we doubt that our club will come out the other side of this? We’ve seen many successful steers clear of relegation, constant rebuilding of squads after sales, two consecutive promotions after administration and recovery from setbacks like last season’s 9-0. The situation we find ourselves in now is 10 times better than when that loss to Leicester was recorded.
The ride may be bumpy for a little while longer. However, things will be looking good once again when hurdles are passed and our club is back on the path to success once again.