Nigel Adkins

Go Back

Adkins and Cortese had strengthened the squad in January with the signings of Tadanari Lee, Billy Sharp and Yago Falque. Jason Puncheon also returned from a long exile. Adkins tightened things up in February, making Saints a lot more difficult to beat. The team conceded just a single goal during the month, thanks to some heroic defending from Kelvin Davis, Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld. Adkins also adopted a slightly more direct approach, to combat opponents who could break up play in midfield. The football wasn't as exciting, but the results were there for all to see. Saints secured big wins over Derby and Watford, and also drew at West Ham, a result that would prove vital come the end of the season.

In early 2012 Adkins had moved Morgan Schneiderlin back into the centre of midfield. The Frenchman was one of the team's most consistent and important players in the second half of the campaign, with a great range of passing. His form in March was particularly impressive. Schneiderlin started attacks by pinging long balls out to the wings. Saints won an unlikely 3 points at Leeds on March 3rd thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Kelvin Davis. They cruised to victories over Barnsley, Hull and Doncaster, and came from 2-1 down to win 3-2 in a remarkable comeback at Millwall. Saints ended March with a disappointing 3-0 loss at Blackpool.

On 7th April Saints faced rivals Pompey at St Marys. It was a rare occasion where Adkins was outfoxed by his opposite number. Portsmouth limited Saints, and held them at 1-1 for much of the contest. It didn't help that Morgan Schneiderlin had been injured by Luke Varney in the opening 10 minutes. The decision to replace the disappointing Guly with Steve De Ridder proved to be a mistake, as Saints lost their shape. Billy Sharp gave Saints a 2-1 lead on 89 minutes, only for David Norris to hit a heartbreaking 94th minute equaliser. Saints recovered to beat Palace 2-0 two days later.

On 13th April Saints faced Reading at St Marys in a top of the table clash. The Royals had been in unstoppable form going into the game, but Adkins's men dominated the first half. Somehow they found themselves 1-0 down before the break however. Reading sat back and invited pressure, before Jason Roberts headed in past Kelvin Davis. Saints continued to push forward, and found an equaliser early into the second half through Rickie Lambert. The home side lost their grip of the game soon after however, and ended up conceding two goals without further reply. Reading won the game and the title, but 2nd place was still all to play for.

West Ham's 6-0 win over Brighton put the pressure on Saints, but a 3-1 win over Peterborough on 17th April settled the nerves, especially as The Hammers had drawn 1-1 with Bristol City on the same night. It meant Saints needed just two points from their remaining two fixtures. It looked as if they were going to get them when Billy Sharp scored in the first minute at Middlesbrough on April 21st. Boro battled back to win 2-1 however, which meant Saints had it all to do on the final day against Coventry. Adkins's men made no mistake against the Sky Blues on April 28th, winning 4-0 to secure back to back promotions.

Throughout 2011/12 Adkins made a habit of quoting Sun Tzu's ancient Chinese military treatise 'The Art of War'. "Never underestimate the opposition" Adkins continued to repeat in every pre-match interview.