Survival gamble – are Southampton trying to ‘do a Sunderland’? And will they stay up – vote now

Southampton have gambled that sacking Mauricio Pellegrino with only eight games left is their best bet of staying in the Premier League.

The club are just one point and one place above the relegation zone, having won just one of their past 17 league games.

Former Stoke boss Mark Hughes is in talks to take over at St Mary’s, but does he have enough time to save the Saints?

Only twice in 10 years has a manager taken over a relegation-threatened club this late on and guided them to safety – and both were Sunderland.

But the Black Cats did not get a third life and did eventually go down last year.

BBC Sport looks at the fortunes of every club that changed their manager in March or later during the past 10 Premier League seasons…

Great escapes

Sunderland – Dick Advocaat (March 2015)

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Dick Advocaat is managing Sparta Rotterdam

The gamble: Sunderland appointed the former Netherlands boss a day after sacking Gus Poyet. Like Southampton, the Black Cats were 17th and one point above the relegation zone after a run of one victory in 12 league games. They had nine games left.

The result: Advocaat guided Sunderland to safety by winning three and drawing three of their remaining nine matches, finishing 16th and three points clear of the drop.

What happened next? A cautionary tale. The Dutchman was due to leave the club that summer but signed a new one-year contract – only to resign after Sunderland won just one of their first eight games the following season. The Black Cats were relegated at the end of 2016-17 having survived the previous campaign under Advocaat’s successor Sam Allardyce and are now bottom of the Championship.

Sunderland – Paolo di Canio (March 2013)

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Paolo di Canio has not taken up a managerial role since leaving Sunderland in 2013

The gamble: The Italian succeeded Martin O’Neill after a run of poor results left Sunderland one point above the relegation zone with only seven games left.

The result: Di Canio’s side lost just twice in seven games. They failed to win any of their final three fixtures, but finished one place and three points above the relegation zone.

What happened next? Di Canio was sacked that September with Sunderland bottom after claiming just one point from five games. Gus Poyet came in and guided them to 14th before his own struggles the next season.


Want to read more on the Premier League relegation battle?


Too little, too late

These clubs were already in the relegation zone when they dismissed their bosses. The new manager bounce was not enough to save any of them – several didn’t bounce at all.

Middlesbrough – Steve Agnew (March 2017)

Steve Agnew<!–

Steve Agnew joined Aston Villa’s coaching staff in December

The gamble: Middlesbrough sacked Aitor Karanka after a 10-game winless run that left the club 19th and three points from safety with 11 games remaining.

The result: Caretaker boss Agnew managed just one win and Boro were relegated with two games still to play.

What happened next? Boro regrouped this season in the Championship under Garry Monk, before he was sacked and replaced by Tony Pulis. Under the Welshman, Boro occupy the sixth and final play-off place with nine games to go.

Newcastle – Rafael Benitez (March 2016)

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Rafael Benitez has refused to discuss his future with Newcastle until their Premier League survival this season has been confirmed

The gamble: The Magpies were a point from safety with 10 games to go when they fired Steve McClaren in favour of former Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Valencia boss Benitez.

The result: Despite Benitez losing only three matches and improving their points per game ratio to 1.30 from 0.86 under McClaren, Newcastle were relegated with one game of the season left.

What happened next? The Spaniard stayed on and guided Newcastle to the Championship title last season. They are in a relegation battle again this term, but now sit five points clear of the bottom three with eight games left after beating Pellegrino’s Southampton 3-0 in their last match.

Aston Villa – Eric Black (March 2016)

Eric Black<!–

Eric Black left Villa Park after the appointment of Roberto di Matteo

The gamble: There wasn’t one. Although not yet mathematically relegated, Villa were already doomed when they sacked Remi Garde. The club had just 16 points from 31 games – 12 fewer than 17th-placed Norwich.

The result: Under caretaker boss Eric Black, Villa earned just one more point – a draw against fellow relegated side Newcastle – as they dropped to the second tier for the first time since 1987.

What happened next? Villa’s next manager Roberto di Matteo was sacked after just 124 days in charge, but the club have stabilised under Steve Bruce, who guided them to 13th last year and they are now third in the Championship, seven points off automatic promotion.

Reading – Nigel Adkins (March 2013)

Nigel Adkins as Reading boss<!–

Nigel Adkins is now in charge of Championship side Hull City

The gamble: Reading were 19th and four points off safety when manager Brian McDermott was sacked on 11 March. When Nigel Adkins, who had been dismissed by Southampton in January, took over two weeks later the Royals were still 19th but seven points adrift.

The result: Reading won just once and drew twice in eight games under Adkins as they remained 19th, 11 points from safety.

What happened next? Adkins stayed on until he was sacked in December 2014 and replaced by Steve Clarke, who lasted just under a year before McDermott returned for a brief second spell. Now under Jaap Stam, the Royals are 19th in the Championship, six points above the drop.

Hull City – Iain Dowie (March 2010)

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Iain Dowie had a points per games ratio of 0.67 in his nine games in charge of Hull

The gamble: Hull brought in Dowie to replace Phil Brown when the club were second from bottom of the Premier League, with nine games remaining.

The result: The Tigers were relegated after taking only six of the available 27 points under Dowie.

What happened next? Dowie left at the end of the season and Hull spent the next three years in the Championship, followed by two back in the top flight before another yo-yo. The Tigers are 17th in the second tier after relegation from the Premier League last season.

Newcastle – Alan Shearer (April 2009)

Alan Shearer as Newcastle manager<!–

Alan Shearer scored 148 goals for Newcastle as a player

The gamble: Club legend Shearer took over from Chris Hughton, who was in temporary charge as a result of Joe Kinnear’s illness, with the Magpies in the bottom three and two points from safety.

The result: Newcastle won just one of their last eight games under Shearer and dropped to the second tier for the first time in 16 years after defeat by Aston Villa on the final day of the season.

What happened next? Shearer returned to his punditry role with the BBC and has not managed since. Newcastle unveiled a statue of the former England captain outside St James’ Park in 2016. The Magpies bounced straight back with the 2010 Championship title, doing the same last year after Premier League relegation in 2016.


The backfire

Norwich – Neil Adams (April 2014)

The gamble: Norwich were five points clear of the relegation zone with five games remaining when Chris Hughton was sacked amid a poor run of form and fan unrest.

The result: Disaster. Youth coach Neil Adams came in and the Canaries took just one point from the next four games. They went into the last match of the season needing to beat Arsenal, hoping West Brom lost to Stoke and also needing a 17-goal swing. The Baggies did lose but Norwich lost 2-0 and were relegated.

What happened next? Adams lasted until the following January when he was replaced by Alex Neil, who won promotion via the play-offs. The Canaries went straight back down and are 14th in the Championship under Daniel Farke, who replaced Neil’s successor Alan Irvine. Hughton’s Brighton are 11th in the Premier League and look on course for safety.


Southampton – What do you think?

We asked for your views on Southampton’s plight – here’s a selection from #bbcfootball. Have your say in the comments below.

Dr Barry Gale, Southampton: Give it to Hughes until the end of the season. Bags of Premier League experience, played for Saints, owns a decent hairdryer, and already got a red and white tie.

Mark Davies: Southampton do not need a manager, they need a firefighter. Two come to mind, one manages Everton and the other manages Middlesbrough. Oops!

Adam, Southampton: I’m afraid Saints future is decided already with only eight games left. He should’ve gone in January before we lost the players as well as the fans.

David: Pellegrino should have gone months ago, we would 100% have gone down if he’d stayed in charge, makes sense to gamble with a new manager, they can’t do any worse!

Ade Reynolds: From November it was obvious we’d be relegated under Pellegrino. Still had a decent squad, but everyone was off form, bemused by his tactics and sick of the cowardly approach to football.


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