On 25th October, Southampton faced Leicester City at St Mary's, and beleaguered boss Ralph
The club stunk of neglect and relegation, and the writing was on the wall for their desperate coach. History and modern-day football said it was time to go.
Fast-forward almost three months, and the previously bereft Saints once again took on the side who had inflicted upon them the worst home defeat in Premier League history.
As Denis Praet rounded off a ruthless Leicester counter-attack after only 14 minutes on Saturday afternoon, Southampton supporters must have been dreading a repeat of their recent mauling by the Foxes.
But it wasn't to be.
But how did they arrive at this point?
The club had a big decision to make following their utter humiliation at the hands of Leicester: sack him, or back him? The board sided with the Austrian coach, who had worked wonders in his previous role at RB Leipzig. The men and women in charge agreed that the blame must fall at the feet of the players, who were simply not applying themselves adequately for their dejected boss.
It was a stance that has rarely been taken by a club's hierarchy. After all, it's much easier to sack one man than to simultaneously put 25 noses out of joint. But that's exactly what the Southampton board did.
Player power had not won the day, and with time and backing on his side,
Further defeats to Manchester City and Everton saw the Austrian make a tactical switch to the team, which may well have saved his job - and saved Southampton from a dreaded relegation battle.
'Back to basics' brought points back on the scoreboard.
Young goalkeeper Angus Gunn was replaced by the experienced Alex McCarthy, and the Southampton coach settled on
From relegation certainties to mid-table security.
Since the 2-1 defeat to Everton which brought about the change in shape, Saints have shipped only ten goals in ten matches, compared to 13 goals in the three games prior.
Their turnaround has been boosted by the incredible scoring run that striker Danny Ings has put together, notching a wonderful 13 goals this season to help steer his club away from any relegation dangers.
The former Liverpool man has struck up a fearsome partnership with the tireless Shane Long, whose energy and willingness to chase every lost cause embodies his coach's never-say-die attitude.
The wide players possess bags of energy themselves, and the central midfield boasts a lovely blend of technique and physical presence in James Ward-Prowse and
It's simple, effective - and not harsh on the eyes, either.
But whilst Ings and co will grab the headlines, this resurgence would never have been possible without their outstanding manager. In the face of adversity,
The troops have finally fallen in line behind their general, and his determination and hunger is at last being replicated on the pitch.
Southampton's return to form is evidence that faith and loyalty to a manager can pay dividends, in a world where short-term fixes and scapegoats are the answer to almost every question.
Source : 90min