Pochettino aims to win over fans
Published 18/01/2013 | 20:20
New Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted winning over the club's supporters will be one of his biggest challenges after he was appointed amid a storm of protest.
Pochettino's recruitment appears to have been in the pipeline for some time after he revealed he had been studying the Southampton squad "for several weeks". That will do little to appease the Saints supporters who are angry that Nigel Adkins was sacked despite leading the club to 15th in the Barclays Premier League after back-to-back promotions.
Pochettino's first game in charge will be on Monday against Everton and he said via an interpreter: "I really want to convince the fans and hopefully they will take me in as they did the previous manager."
Pochettino confirmed the signing of Norwegian centre-back Vegard Forren from Molde on a three-and-a-half year contract, describing him as "a footballer with great promise". But that positive news was overshadowed by the reaction to Pochettino's appointment, with former Southampton captain Matt Le Tissier saying it had turned the club into a "laughing stock".
The new boss added: "It is a great challenge to be here as part of this project and (winning) the kindness of the supporters is one of the biggest challenges that I have.
"I am sure they will be supporting the club for the 90 minutes the game will last. Fans are free to express their feelings. I can't tell them what to feel but I have a lot of respect for how they react. I hope I can convince them with hard work, honesty and that they enjoy the way the club plays and they feel honoured and proud how the team is playing."
Pochettino said he had great respect for the job Adkins did for Southampton, taking them through two divisions and back into the top flight for the first time in seven years. As a player, Pochettino won 20 caps for Argentina and he was the defender whose foul on Michael Owen in the 2002 World Cup game allowed David Beckham to score the winner from the penalty spot.
Pochettino managed Espanyol between 2009 and 2012 before he was sacked in November with the Catalan club bottom of La Liga. He left with a win-loss record of 49 wins and 64 defeats from 146 league matches. The 40-year-old had a number of other options but opted for Southampton after consulting Jose Mourinho.
"I know the Premiership really well. In Spain we follow it closely. I am a great admirer of English football," he said. "I spoke at length with people that know this league such as Jose Mourinho, who is a good friend of mine. He told me the best football in the world is being played here.
"The challenge is to win all the games that are ahead of us. In the background there is a project to grow the club. Very good players have come out of the academy here. We need to keep on reinforcing that structure so that in the long term we can be one of the strongest clubs in England."
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