THEY had it all.
The Southampton Way, a culture established by former executive chairman Nicola Cortese, was the envy of every aspirational Premier League club.
Reuters5 Mark Hughes is the latest Southampton boss to find himself out of a job
That has all fallen apart, with Saints sacking yet another manager after just one top-flight win this season.
Mark Hughes has been bombed, leaving St Mary’s yesterday with the club 18th.
They are close to appointing former RB Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhuttl as their fifth boss since Mauricio Pochettino got out while the going was good in May 2014.
Since then Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel, Manuel Pellegrino and Hughes have all been given a chance.
Sparky’s record is the worst of the lot.
His only win in the Premier League this season was at Crystal Palace.
He was dealt a bad hand, taking over a club hovering dangerously close to the drop when Pellegrino was axed in March.
They survived by the skin of their teeth, finishing 17th after beating Bournemouth and Swansea in their final four matches.
Hughes, who has also managed Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR, should have done his homework.
Getty Images5 The rot has truly set in behind the scenes, with Mauricio Pellegrino also failing miserably
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If he had looked behind the curtain before he took the Saints job, he would have discovered a chaotic ownership structure. Katharina Liebherr passed on the baton to Chinese Gao Jisheng, selling an 80 per cent stake in the club for £210million in August 2017.
The succession plan allowed Ralph Krueger, former coach of the Canadian ice hockey team, to remain as chairman.
Crucially — and disastrously — it also gave Les Reed a go at the controls. Big mistake. Reed was power-mad, dishing out a five-year contract to Fraser Forster on an eye-watering £95,000-a-week.
Forster, now third choice behind Alex McCarthy and Angus Gunn, has not played a first-team game since the 5-2 defeat at Tottenham on Boxing Day.
Reed sold fans’ favourite hot-headed Serbian midfielder Dusan Tadic to Dutch club Ajax last summer.
They have brought in sub-standard players, with Hughes complaining bitterly behind the scenes. He rated Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mario Lemina, telling friends that the central midfielders were the two best players at the club.
Beyond that, he did not have much to work with.
Hughes, 55, who was fired in a quick meeting yesterday morning, cannot believe some of the prices that Saints paid for ordinary footballers.
Reuters5 Charlie Austin is yet to score a single goal for the Saints this season