Southampton are primed to appoint Nathan Jones as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s successor after being granted formal permission to speak with the Luton Town head coach.
Hasenhüttl was sacked on Monday following an alarming start to the season and Southampton identified Jones, who has worked wonders at Luton on modest resources and led the club into the Championship playoffs last season, as their first-choice target to take the club forward. Jones is set to take charge of Luton for the last time when they visit Stoke City, his former club, on Tuesday.
Southampton are admirers of Thomas Frank and discussed the River Plate manager Marcelo Gallardo as they weighed up possible candidates but have accelerated talks with Jones in recent days.
In a statement, Luton said “the whole situation is extremely amicable with Southampton and with Nathan”. Jones previously walked out on Luton to take the Stoke job in January 2019 before returning to the club less than 18 months later.
Hasenhüttl departs following Southampton 4-1 home defeat by Newcastle on Sunday, a result that leaves the team in the Premier League relegation zone. The Austrian was in charge for just under four years, his final nine matches having brought only one win.
That victory at Bournemouth last month was sandwiched by draws at home to West Ham and Arsenal and looked as if it could bring an upturn. But Southampton then lost to Crystal Palace and Newcastle, prompting the hierarchy to make a change.
Hasenhüttl leaves with the club in the same league position – 18th – as they were when he took over from Mark Hughes. The team finished 16th, 11th and twice 15th under him and reached the 2021 FA Cup semi-finals.
“Hasenhüttl, who was appointed in December 2018, departs having made 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,” read a club statement. “However, we now believe it is an appropriate time to make a change.
“Everyone involved with the club would like to express their sincere thanks to Ralph for all of his efforts, as well as the unwavering commitment he has shown throughout his time as manager.”
Richard Kitzbichler, who was appointed to work alongside Hasenhuttl in 2019, has also departed St Mary’s. The first-team lead coach, Rubén Sellés, who was appointed in the summer, will take charge of Southampton’s Carabao Cup match at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday.