IAN LADYMAN: The gremlins got inside Nathan Jones' head at Southampton

IAN LADYMAN: The gremlins got inside Nathan Jones’ head after three months in the Southampton job… who could NOT feel sorry for him? PLUS, why we should all give Big Sam Allardyce the respect he deserves

  • Southampton made the right decision to sack Nathan Jones after loss to Wolves
  • He looked under-qualified and it proved so during his three months in charge 
  • Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough needs rebuilding after recent complaints 

A VERY long time ago I stood in a manager’s office and watched him slowly unravelling under the pressure.

Changing out of his tracksuit after another defeat, he started to get dressed into something smarter. Inexplicably, he put his shoes on before his trousers. Realising what he had done, he looked up at me.

‘You will never know or understand what this job does to your head, son,’ he said. And he was right. But the more you see them, the more you recognise the signs.

At Southampton, they will have recognised the signs and now they have sacked Nathan Jones. It is entirely the right decision. After watching Saints lose at Newcastle the week before last, I was startled to hear Jones blame his players. Sure, they hadn’t been good. But his tactics had been dismal and set the tone.

The defeat was on him and, as I drove home, I wondered if the gremlins had already got inside his head after three months in the job.

Nathan Jones was sacked as the manager of Southampton following a dismal loss to Wolves 

What followed was hard to watch. After defeat at Brentford, he declared himself too good for the role. Before Saturday’s home collapse against Wolves, he was prattling on about Wales and in particular their women. Car-crash stuff brought on by the scrutiny, the desperation for a result and, perhaps, by the realisation deep in Jones’s soul that he was just not good enough.

The players see all this, of course, and that’s the most damaging part of the problem. They are selfish on the whole, footballers. And they smell doubt and fear and nervousness like dogs. Worse, it contaminates the weaker ones.

Look at Southampton’s defeat by Wolves on Saturday. Look at the nature of the goals. Players trundling the ball into their own net like toddlers. Others falling into each other like drunks wondering why the earth is moving under their feet.

These are not bad footballers. Quite the opposite, they are some of the best. But they still need leadership and somebody and something to look up to. And when they don’t get it —when all they see is a man crushed by the weight of the role — there is no way they will be able to save him, even when they want to.

Despite their quality, the players need leadership and somebody and something to look up to 

Further up the food chain, David Moyes struggled a bit under the pressure at Manchester United. The players noticed that, too.

The bloke who had come before Moyes at Old Trafford was called Ferguson, so it was always going to be a tough one for Moyes. But the day he pulled out a book on the art of leadership and management on a flight home from a European game was one many of those players could not look beyond.

Moyes was in an aisle seat at the front. Every player on that flight could see the book. None of this matters as much as results but it’s wrapped up in the same package.

Weakness is never a good look in elite sport. Nor is doubt or fear. When you looked at Jones on the touchline on Saturday — almost trying to hide the lower half of his face inside the collar of his coat — you could see all of that staring back and who could not feel sorry for him?

Like Jones, David Moyes struggled a bit under the pressure at Manchester United

He had a very good reputation built in two spells at Luton but did not do well at Stoke in between.

He looked under-qualified for Southampton and so it proved. It felt like a rushed appointment but the decision to let him go has not come a moment too soon. It is best to set him free before relegation comes and before the man in the dug-out realises he has forgotten how to get dressed.

 Hillsborough rebuild now long overdue

A Sheffield City Council investigation has concluded that there were no major safety concerns arising from the FA Cup game against Newcastle at Hillsborough.

Visiting fans reported terrifying crushes at the Leppings Lane end ahead of their game against Sheffield Wednesday, but the council found the club’s organisation fully complied with the requirements of their safety certificate.

More pertinent is the question of why Leppings Lane is still in use at all. Almost 34 years have passed since the Hillsborough disaster and it’s a mystery why that end of the stadium was never knocked down.

Newcastle fans complained of overcrowding in the Hillsborough away end last month 

 Give Big Sam the respect he deserves

One of my favourite football stories involves Sam Allardyce and the former Bolton Wanderers forward Ian Marshall.

Keen to know whether Marshall was following the medical staff’s instructions away from training, Allardyce sent him home wearing a heart monitor, only to find himself days later looking at a set of results indicating somebody constantly on the move, often at great speed. ‘When we quizzed him about it,’ Allardyce told me 10 years ago, ‘he admitted he had strapped the device to his dog.’

I thought about this when I saw a photo last week of Allardyce giving a talk to students on a Football Business course. Allardyce is 68 now but when he talks it’s always wise to listen.

Sam Allardyce was once one of the best we had and he deserves more respect than given 

Dismissed as a dinosaur by many, he was actually an innovator back in the day, one of the first coaches to use match stats properly.

He was also using psychological profiling of signings 20 years ago. When he was at Blackburn he sent his players home with individual mattresses to help them sleep better. They laughed at him but everybody does it now.

Allardyce took a couple of jobs too many after England. But he was once one of the best we had and the fact he is derided by so many now says much more about us than it does about him.

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