London: Southampton have sacked manager Nigel Adkins and replaced him with former Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino, the Premier League club announced Friday.
The Saints are 15th in English football’s top flight, three points above the relegation zone, after coming back from 2-0 down in a 2-2 draw away to European champions Chelsea on Wednesday.
But that was not enough to prevent south coast club Southampton sacking Adkins and replacing the Englishman with 40-year-old Argentinian Pochettino, who will take charge of training ahead of Monday’s match at home to Everton.
“This decision has been made with the long-term ambitions of Southampton Football Club in mind,” said Saints executive chairman Nicola Cortese.
“Whilst we acknowledge the contribution Nigel has made during the past two years, for the club to progress and achieve our long-term targets a change was needed.
“Mauricio is a well-respected coach of substantial quality who has gained a reputation as an astute tactician and excellent man-manager.
“I have every confidence that he will inspire our talented squad of players to perform at the highest possible level.
“He also shares my belief that the most successful clubs are built by nurturing young players through a development system that provides a clear path to the first team, thereby creating a culture that keeps them at the club for the long term.”
Pochettino, in a statement issued by Southampton, said: “This is the kind of opportunity that any coach would relish.
“Southampton is a club with great heritage, and an even more exciting future. There is a clear vision to take the club to a new era of sustained success in the Premier League, and beyond, which I’m delighted to be part of,” added Pochettino, who was himself sacked by Espanyol in November with the club bottom of La Liga.
Adkins joined Southampton from Scunthorpe in 2010 and took the Saints, then a third-tier club, into the Premier League with back-to-back promotions.
His exit comes with Southampton, who struggled at the start of the season, in the middle of an encouraging run of results which has seen them lose just twice in their last 12 league matches.
And while the timing of Adkins’s exit may have been a surprise to many fans, Southampton great Matthew Le Tissier was not taken aback to see him on his way out of St Mary’s.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Le Tissier told Sky Sports. “It’s a strange time of the season, they’ve lost two of the last 12 games and came from 2-0 down to draw at Chelsea.
“(But) it seems to be the way the club’s being run under the chairman. Nothing’s surprising and it’s a bit of a laughing stock.”
However, the former England international was struggling to understand why Adkins had been been sacked just two days after Saints’ impressive comeback at Stamford Bridge.
“I’m shocked at the timing, it’s very strange and it’s an odd thing to come to terms with today (Friday),” Le Tissier said.
“I think he had a bit of pressure early on this season, people thought it might happen then; maybe they couldn’t get the man they wanted then. It’s all very strange.”
Pochettino, who spent the majority of his career at Espanyol, first as a player then a manager, won 20 caps as a central defender for Argentina and it was his foul on Michael Owen at the 2002 World Cup that led to David Beckham scoring a match-winning penalty for England.