Is Russell Martin A Coup For Southampton Or Too Inexperienced To Succeed?

Southampton are set to appoint Russell Martin
08:00, 21 May 2023

Russell Martin is set to become Southampton’s new manager this month as the recently-relegated Saints make plans to attack life in the Championship next term. It will be an intriguing move, should he make it, from a manager who has garnered a lot of plaudits this season with Swansea City - after a late run of wins saw them narrowly miss out on the top six. 

Leicester City reportedly were interested in him to lead their Championship campaign should they get relegated, but it seems like Southampton have now moved into pole position to make him their head coach. It’s been another season of learning for Martin in South Wales. Swansea ended the season in 10th, three points adrift of the play-off spots, but earned huge plaudits for their possession-based style of play.

His side became so difficult to play against towards the end of the season. The Swans completed 27,339 passes this term, 1,323 more than any other team in the Championship, while their expected points would have seen them finish sixth in the league. They’re certainly pretty on the eye and Martin deserves credit for the work he has done at the club so far. 


But he’s also been at a club that has given chances to young managers to develop before going on to bigger and better things. Graham Potter spent one year at Swansea before moving up to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League and he was replaced by Steve Cooper, also in the top flight now with Nottingham Forest. 

It is a sign that the recruitment of managers is top class at Swansea, but that also gives fans a huge level of frustration. How are they meant to consistently build anything there if every manager leaves for pastures new once they’ve proven themselves. They are now seen as a development club for managers, rather than an outfit that can be taken into the Premier League. 

It’s a worrying sign for Swansea but a positive one for Saints. If Martin follows the successful path of his predecessors, he will take them forward and lead them on a charge back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. If he is willing to leave a club that looks likely to challenge for the top six next term for Southampton, it is a huge sign of intent for the current basement dwellers of the Premier League. 

They might not have picked the right man from the Championship in Nathan Jones, but with Martin they can truly build something that could lead to long-term success. Just look at how Burnley have been transformed under a forward-thinking young manager in Vincent Kompany. Saints are looking to follow the same path in terms of making a change early in the summer in order to give themselves time to build new foundations ahead of next season.

It looks like a move that could pay off. Martin has all the attributes of a manager who can succeed in the Premier League and, one way or another, he is going to get there. He’s still just 37 and only got his first managerial job at Milton Keynes Dons in 2019, so his level of progress has been seriously impressive. With the right club and the right structure around him, his possession-based football could flourish.

Swansea, with the talents Joel Piroe, Matt Grimes and Ben Cabango have a good squad at Championship level and proved they can mix it with the best late in the season. But it was too late for a play-off push. And now they may be forced into another summer rebuild. Meanwhile, Martin may be relatively inexperienced but he would be a huge coup for Southampton. Just like Kompany did in Lancashire, he could spark a new dawn on the south coast.

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