Tuesday 20 February 2018

Don't give Koeman hard time on St Mary's return, urges Saints boss Puel

Claude Puel feels former Southampton boss Ronald Koeman, pictured, deserves respect on his return to St Mary's
Claude Puel feels former Southampton boss Ronald Koeman, pictured, deserves respect on his return to St Mary's

Southampton manager Claude Puel believes former boss Ronald Koeman deserves respect when he returns to St Mary's Stadium on Sunday.

The Dutchman is unsure of what reception will await him when he heads to the south coast for the first time since leaving the club to take over at Everton in the summer.

Koeman was the subject of some supporters' ire when he decided not to honour the third year of his contract, having finished seventh and sixth in his two seasons since replacing Mauricio Pochettino.

Frenchman Puel, though, wants everyone to focus on delivering the required performance rather than proving a point to their former boss.

"I think he did very good at Southampton last season, to get the players to be able to (qualify) for playing European games. I have a lot of respect for his work," Puel said at a press conference.

"I saw him when I was a trainer at Lyon and he was coaching in Europe, he is a good trainer.

"Of course it should be a positive reaction for the players to see their former trainers.

"For the fans it is important to respect also all of his work here and to now be behind their team.

"It is different here now, because the squad has changed with some players finding other clubs, and others now here also.

"Now it is the most important thing to just consider this game, which is against a strong (Everton) team, and not just against a former trainer."

Southampton suffered a 1-0 defeat in their Europa League tie away at Sparta Prague on Thursday night, which leaves them needing a result in the final Group K fixture against Hapoel Be'er Sheva if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

Despite rotating his squad, Puel has struggled to produce regular wins in the Premier League following their European ties, having lost away to Hull just a few days after a memorable victory over Inter Milan at St Mary's.

The French coach, though, is determined the philosophy will eventually pay dividends.

He said: " It is always difficult to play after a European game. You play only two days after an important game, that is very short.

"Recovery is very important with this many games, but we are happy to be able to play all of these games.

"We can see for Liverpool, who have just one game in a week, that it is easier for them to prepare than say Manchester City or Arsenal. We can see with Leicester also, it is difficult to play the Champions League and then the Premier League, difficult to keep a good level in the table.

"For Southampton, it is the first time this squad has played many games, every three days.

"Now it is important to adapt to this situation and to find a solution with character and I hope the quality to take points."

Press Association

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