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May 27, 2014

Pochettino goes: What next for Southampton?

It's been bubbling under the surface for some time now, and despite the rumours that he had signed a new contract with Southampton, the news that all Saints fans were dreading was finally announced on Tuesday evening. Mauricio Pochettino has resigned and immediately joined Tottenham Hotspur.

To be honest this is a pretty bitter pill for the St. Mary's supporters to swallow and is the first in what hopefully won't be too many departures as the club becomes the victim of its own successful season. The vultures are circling, with many of the first team being linked with moves to "bigger" clubs. Indeed, Pochettino's departure now leaves a lot of fans wondering just where the club will go next.

It is a sad reality that Saints having had their best season of the Premier League era are "rewarded" by their best assets being courted by others. Would Spurs have been interested in Pochettino before his time with the club? Of course not. The Argentine's stock was well and truly down having been sacked by Espanyol, leaving them bottom of La Liga. It was Southampton that gave him a chance back in the game, and 16 months later he can walk away for "bigger" and arguably "better" things. That's football.

The board now has its biggest test since taking the reins. With the club's support already doubting them, the appointment of a new manager and how it deals with the subsequent interest in the team's best players will make or break its popularity.

There is no reason for this to be the disaster some of the media would have you believe. This club has recovered from bigger adversary than a manager leaving and ultimately isn't about one man. They still have a talented playing squad, rich backers, arguably the best academy in British football and a battle-scarred and relentless support. Pochettino was by no means perfect and though the football was beautiful and the results good, Saints often flattered to deceive and lacked a Plan B. His disregard of the FA Cup certainly left a sour taste in the mouths of most fans given he had a straightforward tie with Sunderland.

But who should be the next man to manage the South Coast club? These would be my top 5 choices:

1. Murat Yakin. In two seasons as Basel manager, the Swiss coach won the league twice and reached the national cup final twice. He also guided them to some impressive performances in the Champions League, notably against Chelsea. He is available and has already expressed an interest in the position.

2. Uwe Rosler. Former Saints striker Rosler has served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues. Having done a sterling job with Brentford, he was taken on by Wigan Athletic and instantly turned them around. Got them into the playoffs after a dreadful start under Owen Coyle.

3. Clarence Seedorf. In reality I can't see this happening, but it does look like he is about to leave AC Milan. Who better to inspire Saints' young players than a product of the fantastic Ajax Academy and four-time Champions League winner.

4. Frank de Boer. Another that seems unlikely but there would be a huge irony in Saints securing the signature of the Tottenham fans' first choice. Highly regarded as a coach and won it all in the Netherlands as a player and a manager.

5. Nigel Adkins. Yes. Nigel Adkins. Why not? Saints fans were devastated when he was sacked by Nicola Cortese in January 2013, and with the Italian no longer at the club perhaps this is the opportunity to right a few wrongs.

No matter who takes the helm, Saints fans know only too well how to roll with the punches of a difficult exit. The new man will be backed like Adkins and Pochettino were before him.