In an interesting sequence of events, Southampton has treated several fans with the new home kit as a reward for their support last season.
Several fans have taken to Twitter to express their gratitude to the club for this gesture, which seems intent on generating excitement and support for Southampton’s upcoming season.
“As one of the fans who followed the team to every home and away match last season” reads a letter that accompanied the Saints new Under Armour home strip, “I felt it was important for you to know that the energy and inspiration you provided the team has not gone unnoticed”.
The letter, appearing to be written and signed by Saints Chairman Ralph Krueger, seemed to acknowledge certain supporters for their consistent support of Southampton at all home and away matches last season.
“It is important that we take this momentum and energy into the new season. Everyone at the club will take inspiration from your unwavering support to drive us forward when the season starts in August,” wrote Krueger in what appears to be a personal message of encouragement for the Southampton faithful from the Canadian-born executive.
Saints supporter Mike, who goes by the handle Home & Away Saint on Twitter, was genuinely surprised when he received the shirt and letter via mail. “I think it is the first time fans like myself have been recognised for (our) loyalty, said Mike of his reward from the club for perfect attendance at Southampton matches last season, including cup matches.
Southampton fans on Twitter have had mixed reviews over the new home kit in the wake of its apparent ‘leak‘ and subsequent release by the club. Osman, also a Content Executive for Fresh Press Media, had nice plaudits for the kit itself despite having initial doubts, “I’d say it’s better in person, said Osman, who admitted he is a bigger fan of the new yellow away kit. “It’s got a nice sentimental value to it now, as it feels it’s been earned instead of bought”, said Osman.
However, this gesture by the club to send kits to fans might be something that could have been done sooner to strengthen the bond between the club leadership and its most passionate fans.
Mike, who has not missed a Southampton game since November 2008, said “I think these type of things could have been done before”, in regards to the peculiarity of the club just recently taking steps to acknowledge fans for their incredible support.
And while very appreciative to receive his new set of red and white stripes, even though like Osman, he is partial to the new away kit, Mike admits, “It feels like the club is trying to keep the fans on (their) side after a terrible season.
This is certainly an interesting point. After all, much of the criticism by fans towards the club’s leadership has been directed towards the club being out of touch with the fans and what fans want to see from the club. Following a tumultuous campaign that nearly saw Saints relegated to the Championship, it is clear that the club will be keen on maintaining its most loyal supporters. It is perhaps through gestures such as this one that leaders like Krueger hope will show that the club has not turned its back on those most faithful like Mike and Osman.
According to Mike, who maintains a level of skepticism towards club leadership, this move by Krueger is one that will be seen and talked about across the fan base. While it may be a good display of faith by the club, it is not the only thing that fans want to see out of those in charge at the club.
“What we actually want to see are the right decisions being made behind the scenes from the top,” said Mike, who is hoping for better things for the Saints under manager Mark Hughes this campaign.
Some of the noticeable complaints directed at the club’s leadership are its more recent tendency to favour a rather unambitious approach to its footballing decisions. This has undoubtedly spurred frustration in supporters who have become accustomed to a more upward trend of growth in past seasons. It is easy to interpret how Southampton’s struggles in terms of performance this past year might appear as a setback.
“It’s time to see results on the pitch”, said Osman, who while happy to be recognized by the club, has not wavered in his views of those in charge, “The leadership at the club need to push for success with the team before all else”.
Mike would like to see better investment in the first team while providing opportunities for young players. “We need new faces through the door in a few key areas”, said Mike, “ Depending on (what areas) we strengthen, will determine whether we can break into the Top 8.
Nevertheless, it appears not all of the decisions made by club leadership have been bad. Mike admits that keeping Mark Hughes onboard is the right move for Southampton in the current state of things. “I think Hughes will steady the ship,” said Mike. Southampton recently announced an extension of Hughes’ role as Saints manager and the Welshman is set to stay at the club until the summer of 2021.
“I can see us getting back up to the midtable area next season,” said Mike, “I think most fans will take after what we went through last season”.
To mention what Southampton fans “went through” last season, referring to countless under-performances, is certainly something that was felt throughout all of the Saints fan-base. Therefore, it is reasonable for supporters to expect more given the circumstances surrounding the club both culturally and financially. At the moment, Southampton are one of the most profitable and supported clubs outside of the “Top 6” in the Premier League.
Osman, who like most Saints supporters is ready to move on from the toils of last season offered his vision for the season. “I’d say that stability is the key,” said Osman. “If we can finish in the top half, it (would) be great”.
It is also clear that fans like Mike are keeping their faith in the club despite the shortcomings of the past season, particularly in the players at the club
Although undecided, when asked what player’s name and number he would have printed on the back of his new home kit, Mike replied, “I like players with passion and commitment and who give 100%, so I may go for James Ward-Prowse or Pierre-Emile Højbjerg”.