The future of under-fire Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has been a hot point of discussion as of late. With his side sitting in the relegation places of the Premier League with only one win to their name this season, the pressure has mounted as the club’s wealthy Swiss backers look to make headway in their first season back in the top flight since 2005. His cause wasn’t helped last night as his side were soundly beaten 3-0 by Leeds United, who will now enter the draw for the last eight of the Capital One Cup. Pretty much changing his entire first XI, with the bench made up of the club’s youth players, Adkins’ drastic changes backfired spectacularly. The Saints were outplayed by their Championship opponents from the get go, and the 3-0 scoreline could easily have been double that. Goals from Michael Tonge, El-Hadj Diouf and a Luciano Becchio penalty sealed the Whites’ victory in a woeful Southampton display. Yet one suspects that Adkins will justify his changes if his side can capitalise on a winnable set of fixtures against West Bromwich Albion, Swansea and Queens Park Raangers.
Luke Varney, who has so far failed to impress at Leeds since his summer move from Portsmouth, was given a rare start last night in place of the rested Luciano Becchio, who started on the bench. The ex-Crewe man was at the heart of all of his side’s attacks and pulled the strings in what was an industrious performance. However, one of Varney’s weaknesses has always been his poor strike-rate, and his reputation for not being the most natural of finishers was summed up against Southampton. Before his side took the lead, Varney shot wide at Kelvin Davis’ open goal from just a few yards out in a miss that would be up there with the Ronnie Rosenthal memorable Liverpool miscue. Undeterred, Varney’s work-rate was a key factor in his side’s attacks, particularly in setting up Diouf’s second-half goal. Having endured jeers from his own supporters lately, Neil Warnock will be hoping his summer signing has turned a corner and can finally start to add something to the Elland Road outfit’s faltering promotion push, which has seen them win just once in the last four games.
Whether Adkins remains in his job in the next transfer window or not, the first ask for the manager of Southampton will be to plug the gaps in the defence. Stand-in captain Jos Hooiveld formed a shaky partnership with Danny Seaborne that was terrorised for by Diouf and Varney in what was a torrid evening up north for the visitors. The Saints’ first-choice pairing of Maya Yoshida and Rui Fonte haven’t fared much better in the Premier League. Adkins blamed his defence for costing his side victory in the recent 2-2 draw with Everton, and since then defeats by West Ham, Tottenham and Leeds have seen nine goals conceded. The club have spent big this summer on players such as Gaston Ramirez, but the heart of the defence is now the most pressing issue at hand if the club are extend their stay in the top flight beyond one season.
Leeds United, despite being out of the top flight for over eight years, are still considered one of England’s biggest clubs. In terms of history, status and certainly fanbase, there are only five or six other clubs who would match up to the Whites in terms of tradition. And yet during Ken Bates’ tenure, the crowds have continuously fallen. Tuesday night’s game saw a poor attendance of just 17,002 in a cup match against a Premier League side, highlighting the need for a revaluation of the club’s ticket prices is urgently required. There is no doubt a successful Leeds team could sell out their 40,000 Elland Road capacity. Bates, believed to be finalising the club’s sale to Dubai based bank GFH Capital, has overseen the rise of prices which now makes a matchday experience at Elland Road the fifth expensive in the country. If the new owners see the club for its potential and invest accordingly, then they must also see that part of this potential extends to its fanbase, and pricing issues and other new ways to engage the stay away fans must rank as a main priority.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news