LONDON: Southampton did not take long to get over the pain of losing manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham. Most fans had never heard of him before his appointment 18 months ago. This cannot be said of Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman is still remembered admiringly for his thunderous free kicks. One won the Champions League for Barcelona at Wembley in 1992 and another prevented England reaching the 1994 World Cup finals.
His cv includes Dutch league titles with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven and a Spanish cup with Valencia though it glosses over the disagreements and controversies which have also paved his managerial path.
Koeman has signed a three-year contract and made Lex Immers one of his immediate transfer targets. Immers was a regular for Koeman at Feyenoord from whom the 51-year-old resigned last month after guiding them twice to Champions League qualification.
Of his debut in English football, Koeman said: “I have just signed at the great English club and am very much looking forward to the new season.
“Southampton have a talented first-team squad, a world-class academy and the infrastructure to sustain success in the Premier League. From my first meeting with Les Reed [executive director], I could see clearly that this was the right club for me. We share the same philosophy of football and the same belief in how to develop the club.
“The opportunity to continue the development of this famous club was simply too good to turn down.”
Koeman will be assisted by Erwin, his brother who left Waalwijk after their relegation, and Jan Kluitenberg, who worked with him at four clubs and was most recently physical coach with Feyenoord.
Dutch managers have had a mixed track record in English football. Ruud Gullit was popular as a player-manager at Chelsea but then a fish out of water [do you have this in German?] at Newcastle; Martin Jol was a nearly-success at Tottenham and then, ultimately, both a success and failure at Fulham; Rene Meulensteen was an effective coach under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United but a short-lived victim of circumstances beyond his control at Fulham.
However the legacy of star Dutch players down the years – from Arnold Muhren to Robin Van Persie – guarantees respect. How Koeman then earns it in his own right is another matter. His major challenge is rebuilding a squad shorn by transfer pressure its leading lights.
Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana plus maybe Dejan Lovren and Morgan Schneiderlin Morgan Schneiderlin are likely to join the exodus led by England centre-forward Rickie Lambert.
Koeman’s task is not so much taking Saints onward and upward but starting to build all over again.
** Alan Irvine, former academy director at Everton, is new manager of West Bromwich in succession to short-lived Pepe Mel. This is Irvine’s first major managerial role.