As the transfer window rumbles on and the top teams get out their tens of millions to spend on new acquisitions, spare a thought for poor old Southampton.
After equalling their best ever finish in the Premier League and seeming to have found a managerial gem in Mauricio Pochettino and a hard core of players who looked capable of taking the team on, the whole project has fallen apart.
Cracks beginning to show
In truth the story of woe really began when the club owner Katharina Liebherr controversially forced out Pochettino's mentor, friend and club chairman, Nicola Cortese back in January. The former Swiss banker, who had helped transform the club and propel them to the dizzy heights of the Premier League top 5, felt he could no longer work with the interference and constraints being placed on him by the billionaire heiress and walked out on the club he had done so much to build back up.
At that time Pochettino's relationship with the club hierarchy looked very shaky but he committed himself to staying on until the end of the season before deciding his future. We all know what happened when he came to that decision-point; Tottenham Hotspur came knocking and Pochettino opened the door to walked out on Southampton.
The player exodus
The vultures - in the shape of Liverpool FC and Manchester United - were already circling the Southampton squad before Pochettino quit and it didn't take long for a player exodus to follow him. Ricky Lambert had departed for Liverpool within a few days of the Argentine leaving; Luke Shaw signed in at Old Trafford for £27million later in June, quickly followed by Adam Lallana's £25million move to Anfield.
Dejan Lovren, Morgan Schneiderlin, Dani Osvaldo and Jay Rodriguez all seem to have similarly uncertain futures for various reasons, with Liverpool having already bid for Lovren and possibly coming back for Rodriguez. Ronald Koeman has already brought in two replacement squad members in Dusan Tadic (£10m) and Graziano Pelle (£8m) but whether he can fuse an effective team together with the current destabilising rumours and problems is anyone's guess.
How optimistic Southampton fans must have been last Christmas as their team held their own near the summit of the Premier League. Now, mainly through the interference of an absentee foreign owner who, by her own admission, knows nothing about football, all of the progress made in the last few seasons is in danger of flying out the window.
Yet another example of the perils of foreign ownership by parties who have no real interest in English football nor even the teams they own. You have to feel for the fans; they have done nothing wrong and nothing to deserve this yet their team, potentially, lies in ruins. Money, politics and lack of authority from the FA sells fans down the river again.
When will football return to being a sport that fans can be proud of, relate to and just enjoy?
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