New Southampton manager faces tough first game

Rickie Lambert celebrates after scoring against Chelsea last week.

Rickie Lambert celebrates after scoring against Chelsea last week.

First published in Sport Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

MAURICIO Pochettino will take his seat in the Southampton dugout for the first time tonight, as Saints look to continue their good run of form against high-flying Everton (kick-off 8pm).

The 40-year-old former Espanyol manager took over as Saints boss on Friday, following the shock dismissal of Nigel Adkins, who had led the club to successive promotions from League One to the Premier League.

The new Southampton manager's biggest decision will be whether to bring top-scorer Rickie Lambert back into the starting line-up.

Lambert came off the bench to head his 10th Barclays Premier League goal of the season in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

Pochettino could welcome back Adam Lallana, who has returned to light training after a knee injury, but tonight’s game is likely to come too soon for the midfielder, who has been out of action for several weeks.

The match could also see £4m signing Vegard Forren make his first appearance at St Mary’s.

The 24-year-old Norway international signed a three-and-a-half year deal at the club amid the furore surrounding the managerial change on Friday.

Capped five times by Norway, Forren was named the Norwegian top flight’s player of the year for his performances playing for Molde in 2012. Liverpool showed an interest in the defender, inviting him over to England for a trial, but Forren was excited by what the future could hold for Southampton.

“It’s a dream come true for me. Southampton is a big club in the Premier League, which is where I have always wanted to come and play football,” Forren said.

“When I was told of the interest from Southampton, straight away I wanted to come and talk to the chairman. We had a chat and I was very impressed – there was no doubt that this is where I wanted to be.

“The plan the chairman has for this club is fantastic. There is a good, young squad here and the way they play fits me well, so I hope I can join the team and get some good results.”

There could be a strange atmosphere at St Mary’s tonight, with Saints fans planning to wave white hankies in a Spanish-style protest against Nigel Adkins’ sacking.

Southampton go into the game 15th in the Premier League, three points above the relegation zone after losing just two of their last 12 games.

However, Everton will provide Pochettino with the toughest of tests for his first taste of English football. They sit fifth in the table, having lost only one of their last 11, and beat Saints 3-1 when the sides met at Goodison Park back in September.

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