Southampton seek retribution against former boss Koeman and Everton
Ronald Koeman was never backwards at coming forwards when it came to challenging the ambition of the Southampton board.
As the Dutchman returns to the St Mary's Stadium on Sunday for the first time since his controversial summer defection to Everton, the reasons for his departure will once again come under the microscope. Koeman will rightly receive a far from warm welcome from the majority of the home fans after being branded a snake on social media for the way he conducted his move to Goodison Park.
Even as news of Everton's interest in the Barcelona icon began to emerge from Merseyside, Koeman publically promised he would at least see out the final year of his Southampton contract. That is why his exit left such a bitter taste and sense of betrayal among the fans who used to sing his name and who will give the Everton manager a vitriolic reception every time he is brave enough to step foot in his technical area.
Koeman has recently claimed the motivation for his U-turn was the "disappointing" contract offer he was made by Southampton, having led the south coast side to successive record Premier League point tallies
While that may be a factor, and there are those in the corridors of power at St Mary's who believe Koeman attempted to use Everton's interest to earn himself a more lucrative deal, there are other significant reasons.
First the behind the scenes unrest between Koeman and head of football development Les Reed over the former Netherlands defender's reluctance to blood players from Southampton's fabled youth academy.
Players like Sam McQueen, who has been a shining star this season for Southampton after being converted from a winger to a left back by Koeman's softly-spoken successor, Claude Puel.
But when Koeman first held talks with Reed over the possibility of him joining the now annual summer exodus from the south coast he also sought assurances he would be given significant funds to invest in his squad and help turn Southampton into Champions League challengers.
Seemingly these assurances were not granted and Southampton were left searching for their third manager in as many years.
As Koeman prepares to reacquaint himself with familiar surroundings, Puel himself could be forgiven for questioning the direction the club are going -- Southampton's dire need for a top class striker clear for all to see in the wake of recent results, culminating in Thursday's pitiful 1-0 Europa League defeat at Sparta Prague.
Puel has tried his best to transform Nathan Redmond from a winger to an out and out forward, even comparing the former Norwich star to Thierry Henry. But Redmond has looked a fish out of water in his new role.
Jay Rodriguez was all set to leave on loan in August before a goal in the 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland convinced Puel he could be part of his plans.
However, his showing in the Czech capital was a far cry from the Rodriguez who was terrorising the best defences in the Premier League prior to his career-threatening knee injury.
Charlie Austin has been the one shining light in the forward area, weighing in with eight goals to spark claims of an England call-up.
But Austin needs help to ease the scoring burden and is clearly not physically able to play more than one game a week as his constant omission from the Saints' European line-ups testifies.
Daniel Sturridge is a name that has been banded around this week as a possible January arrival from Liverpool and that is the type of marquee signing the board need to make to prove Koeman, and some skeptical supporters, their aims of taking Southampton to the 'next level' are more than just hot air.
Alex Crook is ESPN FC's Southampton blogger. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crook