RALPH HASENHUTTL wants Southampton’s pressing game to be all thunderbolts and lightning and very, very frightening this season.
The Austrian’s all-action approach saved Saints from relegation last term.
4 Ralph Hasenhuttl saved Southampton from relegation last seasonCredit: Getty – Contributor
4 The Austrian wants the Saints to implement a Jurgen Klopp-style pressingCredit: Getty – Contributor
And touring his homeland last week, he was drilling the tactic into his players to make it even more effective for the upcoming campaign.
But when he is not on the pitch, whistle in mouth and barking orders, the man dubbed ‘the Alpine Jurgen Klopp’ on his arrival in England has a more soothing way of switching off.
In the mountainous setting of idyllic Schruns, three hours from Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg, he opened up to SunSport on their pre-season tour about tinkling the ivories.
And his love of a Freddie Mercury masterpiece . . .
Hasenhuttl, 51, said: “I play the piano when I’m alone at home in the evening.
“Sometimes for friends when we are together, singing together, to create a nice atmosphere.
“I have a wonderful flat in Southampton and sometimes after games I have friends and family round and we have very nice evenings — especially after wins.
“I play music from Queen, to Elton John, to classic. Bohemian Rhapsody is fantastic. I like to play it, it’s beautiful.”
I play the piano when I’m alone at home. I play music from Queen, to Elton John. Bohemian Rhapsody is fantastic. I like to play it, it’s beautiful.
Southampton supporters will have felt like they were caught in a landslide with no escape from reality before their latest manager pitched up.
‘Another one bites the dust’ would have been a fitting song on the St Mary’s loudspeaker after a string of failed managerial appointments.
But hope has returned under Hasenhuttl, who claims his status as the only Austrian to manage in the Premier League has seen a surge in Saints fans from his home country.
His style may be akin to a strict school teacher, forbidding alcohol for players AND staff on tour.
But he rewards hard work, taking the squad up the mountain to take in the thrilling vista and enjoying some cake for the 23rd birthday of new signing Che Adams.
He learned the value of the carrot-and-stick approach during his time with penniless VfR Aalen in the German third tier, long before his successful stints with Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig.
Hasenhuttl explained: “There you did everything on your own. Every video I cut myself.
“It started with CDs, ten to 12 years ago. I prepared everything for the team — it was long.
“The quality of the pre-match meetings and analysis was just horrible when I compare it to what we do now.
“But it also worked and when you’re in a league when everybody has the same possibilities as you have, then you can do something different when you are working with a better idea.
“It was very important to go through those steps. We had nothing, but even then I had success with my team. It’s an experience that you have to make as a coach.
“It’s maybe the reason I’m so respectful to my staff now, because I know they need to get told, ‘Thanks a lot, good job’.
“Everybody needs to get a pat on the back.”
SAINTS GO MARCHING IN
Hasenhuttl took Ingolstadt to the Bundesliga and then Leipzig to the Champions League.
But he decided to quit German football as he no longer found it “interesting”.
Saints provided a chance to work in a league with managers from all over the globe — and a number of different styles.
He learned a lot from his first six months, including about the custom of shaking hands with a fellow manager at the final whistle after a ticking-off from Chris Hughton.
The former Salzburg striker recalled: “I learned very quick that shaking hands is the most important thing immediately after the game.
“I was always sprinting on the pitch wanting to celebrate with my players.
“But if this is the only problem I have in the future, I think I can stand it!”
Hasenhuttl witnessed his side’s capacity to dig deep after their lowest moment.
That was February’s 2-1 home defeat to Cardiff, where Saints had equalised in the 90th minute, only to lose again and drop into the relegation zone.
The club went to Tenerife the following week, with the players “mentally empty”. But they used the bad experience to ensure survival, while Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds went down.
4 Hasenhuttl sat down with SunSport's Tom Barclay to discuss his plans for next seasonCredit: Getty – Contributor
4 The 51-year-old also revealed he likes to play Queen on the piano to relax in the eveningsCredit: Getty – Contributor
So what of this season?
How far can inspirational Hasenhuttl, who finished second in the Bundesliga with Leipzig, take James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond et al?
The Graz-born gaffer replied: “When I have nothing to do with the relegation zone and we swim around tenth, I think that would be fantastic, absolutely.
“But I can’t tell you what will be a success for this season.
“Maybe it will be position 11 — because we have problems with injuries or something like that. Maybe it will be position eight or nine. I don’t know.”
The hope is Hasenhuttl can be the man to return Southampton to the heights scaled by Ronald Koeman, who took the South-Coast side into Europe.
But to do that, there will be no alteration to the model of polishing rough diamonds that has served the club so well.
Hasenhuttl’s first signing this summer was unknown Mali winger Moussa Djenepo, 21, from Standard Liege.
And the Saints chief admitted: “We want to create big stars for the future.
“I think when you see the development of some players of my time, you see they reached a good level. I think they are now in the picture of a lot of clubs.
“We will never buy players for £30m or 40m. In the future that will not happen.
“We are looking for young players who give us a lot of fantasy in their development.”
All Hasenhuttl asks for from his starlets is to work hard and sacrifice their ego for the team.
Those are the twin pillars upon which his own playing career was built.
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He added: “As a player, I wasn’t the best individual — I was a team player. That was always my biggest strength. But I had my limits.
“I always said, as a coach, I don’t see those limits so far.”
That unbounded potential will be music to the ears of Saints supporters, whose manager up to now has hit all the right notes.