SOUTHAMPTON FC is surely unique among professional football clubs.
After all, there can’t be many others where the close season is more fascinating than the actual season itself.
Saints have long been described as a soap opera, and the last decade has seen some remarkable storylines with goodies and baddies in almost equal measure.
I give you Rupert Lowe, Michael Wilde, Leon Crouch, Micky Fialka, Michael Wilde, Jim Hone, Nicola Cortese, Marcus Liebherr, Ralph Krueger, Les Reed.
And not a single one of those men have ever kicked a ball for the club!
This summer, though ...
This summer, even by Saints’ phenomenal high standards of intrigue, has been unbelievable.
No, forget that, this whole year has been unbelievable.
The end result of the chairman going, the manager going, and five of last season’s regular team going, is this ...
Ronald Koeman, less than two months after arriving as manager, now needs to produce the mother of all rebuilding jobs before the summer transfer window slams shut at the end of August.
The sale earlier this week of Calum Chambers to Arsenal was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a lot of supporters.
The fact Saints made no real attempt to keep one of their most promising youngsters, when confronted by a ‘big club’ waving a huge wad of cash, was an unsurprising tipping point for many fans.
The club totally lack ambition.
We’re a laughing stock.
We want our season ticket money back.
Katharina Liebherr must surely be trying to sell the club.
Saints owner Katharina Liebherr
We can’t believe anything the directors tell us anymore.
Those comments were the general gist of hundreds upon hundreds of postings made to the Echo’s website.
So that is what this summer of total madness has boiled down to ...
... Saints supporters battered into near submission by a succession of player departures, and fearing for their club’s top flight future.
Relegation from the Premier League, followed by administration and relegation from the Championship, surviving near oblivion, starting a third division season on minus 10 points.
They are the factual low points from the last ten years, and fans have not forgotten them.
How can they?
Now they are worried, really worried, that the club might have risen too quickly from the depths of League 1 to the top eight of the Premier League.
They have celebrated along with the likes of Lambert and Lallana as Saints have clambered from 24th place in the third tier to, briefly, the top three of the top flight within five years.
Now Lambert and Lallana have gone.
And so has Shaw.
Luke Shaw in action for Saints last season
So has Lovren. So has Chambers.
Is this the reality Saints fans have now got to get their heads around?
That no sooner has the club produced another gem off its academy, they are gone – snapped up a bigger fish.
But it was ever thus.
Walcott, Bale, Chamberlain. They were the highest profile, but there have been others – Bridge, Surman, Matt Mills, Baird.
How long before a top club come in for Ward-Prowse? Or Matt Targett, even though he hasn’t even played a competitive game for the club yet? Or Sam Gallagher?
They are sensible questions to ask in the current climate.
However, it would be stretching the boundaries of credibility – really stretching them – to suggest, as some have, that Katharina Liebherr and the board are asset stripping prior to selling the club.
Really? If you’re going to sell, you would presumably want the best price possible.
And a successful squad gives you a better chance of getting the best price.
It’s not rocket science.
Six years ago Saints appointed a Dutch manager, as they have done this summer.
Back in 2008, Jan Poortvliet arrived with no decent top level managerial CV to speak of. From the moment he arrived, it was obvious he would be a ‘yes’ man to Lowe.
Former Dutch Saints manager Jan Poortvliet
Ronald Koeman is different, and Saints 2014 are different.
Unlike six years ago, the club have not appointed a ‘yes’ man.
Unlike six years ago, they are not basically skint, far from it.
They have already spent £20m on players, which was twice the club’s total income just five short years ago.
They have around £50m left from selling players this summer to reinvest on transfer fees and wages.
We have been told that all the monies will be reinvested, and until the transfer window closes we have to take Saints’ board at face value.
If they spend it, good. That will restore some fans’ lost confidence in them. Ralph Krueger and Les Reed can say what they want, but actions speak louder the words and Saints need to silence their critics by signing quality players.
If they don’t spend all their money received from player sales, they will need to make sure their PR is a damn sight better than it has been ...