Wednesday marked an end of an era at St. Mary's as Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese resigned. Katharina Liebherr, daughter of the late Markus Liebherr, will takeover as non-executive chairman.
"With great regret we have accepted the resignation of Mr. Cortese," Liebherr said in a statement issued by the club. "He has done a wonderful job at the club and we very much wanted him to stay. A search has now begun for a successor. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we will ensure that the manager, the team and all the staff at the club have all the help and support they need."
Under Cortese's leadership, Southampton went from a League One side that was saddled with a 10-point deduction for entering administration to a club that now sits ninth in the Premier League.
It's natural for Southampton fans to feel nervous about such a transition. A revolving door of Rupert Lowe, Michael Wilde and Leon Crouch coincided with the Saints being relegated into League One and going into administration in the first place.
But fans should remain patient to see what happens with the club.
The first question that needs to be addressed is the future of Mauricio Pochettino. Back in May, when it was first reported there was a rift between Cortese and Liebherr, Glenn Moore of The Independent reported that Pochettino would follow Cortese out the door if the Italian left the club.
"My future in Southampton has to be with Nicola," said Pochettino according to Moore. "The reality is we share a common passion and long-term plan for this club. It would not make much sense for me to continue at this club if he is not here."
Even if Pochettino walked out the door immediately, Southampton are in good shape for the rest of the season. With 30 points in 21 games, it would take an unthinkable collapse for the Saints to be drawn into a relegation battle. The club would effectively be able to coast into next season and not rush into making new appointments.
With the shakeup, rumors will persist of players wanting to leave the club. A couple of factors make such an exodus unlikely.
All of Southampton's key players have been signed to long-term contracts over the past year-and-a-half. Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne are signed until 2016; Dejan Lovren, Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama until 2017; and Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw until 2018. With such commitment, there is no rush for the club to unload players.
Ben Smith of BBC Sport has reported that Liebherr is interested in selling the club. If she does wish to cash in and take profits, stripping the club of its most important players before selling makes little sense. A club without Lallana and Shaw just wouldn't be as valuable.
Fans that are afraid with Liebherr running the club in the long term when she has reportedly had little interest in the sport, according to Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail, should relax as well. In the statement, Liebherr said she is looking for a successor to run the football side of the club, implying that her role as non-executive chairman will be limited to the business and financial operations of the club.
In today's world, it is natural to overreact to news and how it may change things. At this point, Cortese's resignation is a setback for the club. But there was shock and dismay when Alan Pardew and Nigel Adkins were sacked by Cortese, and those decisions turned out for the better.
The only thing Saints fans can do right now is thank Cortese for his service to the club and his role in bringing Southampton back from the brink of collapse to the Premier League.
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