Hasenhüttl fired by Southampton as relegation battle looms

Losing two games 9-0 didn’t bring down Ralph Hasenhüttl.

The threat of relegation from the lucrative Premier League couldn’t save him from being fired by Southampton, though.

Hasenhüttl’s near four-year stint at the south-coast club ended Monday, a day after the Austrian manager acknowledged he could see no way of turning around an alarming run of form that saw the team plunge to third-to-last place.

Southampton has won just one of its last nine league games, the latest setback coming on Sunday in a 4-1 loss at home to Newcastle at St. Mary’s Stadium. The team is facing a fight to preserve its decade-long stint in the top flight.

In a statement, Southampton said it was “an appropriate time to make a change” and thanked Hasenhüttl for making “a significant contribution to the club, overseeing some memorable results and also playing a key role in the development of our club infrastructure, identity and playing squad.”

“Everyone involved with the club would like to express their sincere thanks to Ralph for all of his efforts,” the statement said, “as well as the unwavering commitment he has shown throughout his time as manager.”

Rubén Sellés, one of the assistant coaches, will take charge of Southampton on an interim basis, starting with the English League Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday. The team’s final league match before a six-week pause for the World Cup is against Liverpool away on Saturday.

Hasenhüttl, who joined Southampton after coaching for 11 years in Germany, became a popular figure at the club because of his passion and his team’s high-energy style of play which attempted to mimic the approach of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool — and earned Hasenhüttl the nickname “The Klopp of the Alps.”

But there were also significant lows — including those 9-0 defeats to Leicester in 2019 and Manchester United in 2021 which tied the record for the biggest losing margin in a Premier League match.

The last year has also been a struggle, with Southampton finishing 15th in the 20-team league in the 2021-22 season — five points above the relegation zone — and now sitting just two points above last-place Nottingham Forest after 14 games.

“I cannot say that we don’t try a lot to change and to play football,” Hasenhüttl said after the Newcastle game. “I think we do it well, and we cannot say that the effort was not there. Until the last minute, we tried and we were putting a lot of effort on the pitch.

“Everybody cannot say that the team is not fighting for it. But you know, we are not taking the reward for the effort we are putting on the pitch.”

It is the first managerial change since Southampton was bought in January by Sport Republic, a company fronted by Dragan Solak — the founder of eastern European telecommunications giant United Group.

Southampton has been in the Premier League since 2012 and established a reputation for having a strong academy that brought through players including Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

In recent windows, spending has been reined in and Southampton has focused on bringing in young players with potential in what seemed like a long-term play.

Hasenhüttl won’t be around to see it through.

Nathan Jones, who currently manages Luton Town in the second-tier Championship, has been linked by British media with the vacant role at Southampton.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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