Premier League

Forget Hughes: This linked-away 57-year-old is the man to take Southampton forward

Southampton supporters have been pretty downbeat in the Transfer Tavern in the last few days after seeing their side thumped 3-0 by Premier League relegation rivals West Ham to remain firmly lodged in the bottom three.

Mark Hughes’ men went into their clash with their fellow strugglers off the back of reaching the last four of the FA Cup courtesy of a 2-0 win over giant-killing Wigan Athletic in their previous outing, but they were comfortably second-best against the Hammers at the London Stadium on Saturday. A brace from Marko Arnautovic after Joao Mario’s opener sealed a routine success for David Moyes’ side, thus moving them five points clear of the Saints, who remain in deep trouble with just seven games to go.

As such, there have been many despondent Southampton fans in the Tavern in recent times, several of whom are hugely concerned about their side’s woeful run of form, a run which is looking increasingly like plunging them down to the Championship.

In the meantime though, there has been much for our resident Saints supporters to get their teeth into, not least recent reports linking Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez with La Liga outfit Real Sociedad.

Yet the South Coast outfit simply must act and forget about giving Hughes a long-term deal in the summer, even if he keeps them up, as 57-year-old Benitez is undoubtedly the man to take Southampton forward.

Ultimately, the Spaniard has done an excellent job at Newcastle since taking over back in 2016, as although he was unable to keep them in the Premier League at the rear end of the 2015/16 season, he led them to the Championship title the campaign after, and they are currently 12th in the top-flight with just seven games of this season to go.

And many pin much of Newcastle’s success this term on the 57-year-old such are the glaring limitations in the Magpies squad, which is further testament to his ability as a manager, which has been notable throughout his career having won silverware both domestically and in Europe.

And having managed clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool, and Real Madrid, to name but a few, in his career thus far, he’s clearly a big-time manager and exactly the sort that can take clubs forward – Newcastle are comfortably in a better place now than they were when he took over two years ago.

And with much uncertainty off the field at St James’ Park, notably regarding the transfer policy of owner Mike Ashley, Benitez could well be tempted to leave the club this summer, and Southampton must be ready to act were that to be the case.

If the Saints can stay up this season, the infrastructure of previous seasons would remain in place, and with the calibre of players currently at the club, the foundations would be there for someone to come in and take them back towards the top half of the Premier League – Benitez could be that man.

And with Hughes coming in off the back of a tough spell at Stoke, he may not be the long-term answer at St Mary’s, yet Benitez could be, which is why the South Coast outfit simply must seek to lure the 57-year-old away from Newcastle in the summer.

Southampton fans… what do you think? Let us know!

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