Nigel Adkins delivers a clear message
It was dubbed ‘El Sackico’ by the tabloids, a match in which the axe would drop on the defeated manager. And it was won hands-down by Nigel Adkins, much to the surprise of many punters. In five away games prior to Saturday, his Southampton side had lost all five, conceding 18 goals plus a further 40 shots on target.
On the one hand, their victory over QPR was a lesson in the nature of expectation. The stakes were equal for both sides but the Saints were clear underdogs and could approach the game as though they had nothing to lose, whereas all of the many practical factors in QPR’s favour crippled them in psychological terms, each one providing another reason why they must win.
By the same token, we should also give Adkins his due. Because while such circumstances pave the way for an outsider to approach a match without fear, not every manager embraces that advantage and not every manager gets a fearless performance from his players. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but we probably should have known that Adkins would seize the moment.
To some, Adkins is little more than a self-help guru in manager’s clothing, a walking guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming, an overbearing disciple of approaching life with a positive mental attitude – and he seems distinctly smug about it, too. In short, a mere glimpse of his grinning mug on Match of the Day is too much for some.
In an interview with a local BBC reporter four weeks ago, Adkins was asked how he coped with the stress of the job. A few days earlier, Saints had lost 4-1 at West Ham and Adkins had looked deflated in a way we’d never seen before. He responded by reciting a poem called The Man In The Glass by Dale Wimbrow. It’s a great poem but this was a real David Brent moment, cringeworthy in the extreme.
But that’s where the comparison with Wernham Hogg-style middle-management ends because, unlike the Ricky Gervais’ alter-ego, Adkins is a man of real substance once you scratch beneath the cheesy exterior. We’ve all encountered pretentious characters hiding behind a much-rehearsed bible of mantras but few of them make equal noise with their achievements.
Adkins, however, has few equals in football management over the past six years with four promotions already on his CV. It’s one thing getting your team into contention four times, but getting them across the finishing line four times is another matter altogether. Clearly, Adkins says the right things and he says them in a way that gets remembered by players in moments of high tension.
Only time will tell how much weight Nicola Cortese attaches to the performance at Loftus Road when results take another turn for the worse – and they will with such a young squad bereft of Premier League experience. Nonetheless, it’s a timely reminder that the players are fully behind the manager, they know exactly what he wants and they’re all singing from the same hymnsheet, doing the best they can with the ability they have.
If Cortese wants to bring in a new man and start mixing up the messages, he might have to dig a lot deeper than the cost of Adkins’ severance pay. If someone else is going to keep Southampton in the Premier League this season, you can rest assured it will also come at the expense of half-a-dozen new players on decent wages in January.
Perhaps he might want to try somebody like Mark Hughes?Tagged in: Loftus Road, Nicola Cortese, Nigel Adkins, QPR, Saints, Southampton, West Ham
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