“I want us to have a clear identity, that’s what I want us to do. I want people to say, ‘look, that’s how Southampton play’ – that’s the big thing.”
But what does that identity look like? Nathan Jones has been explaining his footballing philosophy in his first interview as Southampton’s new manager.
“I wouldn’t want to say too much now in terms of, ‘this is how we’re going to play, this is what we’re going to be,’ but, given time, we will have a clear identity that hopefully plays on the front foot and wins enough games so that we are successful at Premier League level,” he says.
Jones is known for his adaptability, with the various iterations of his Luton side, who he managed across two stints spanning more than 300 games from League Two to the Championship, adopting different playing styles to suit personnel identified on a limited budget.
Pinning down the right way to use the squad he’s inherited will be easier, Jones hopes, with the luxury of a six-week break following this weekend’s trip to Liverpool.
It’s effectively a mid-season pre-season for Premier League clubs, due to this year’s unprecedented winter World Cup, and Jones is determined to use the time wisely to get to know the Saints squad, both as players and as people.
“Having the time to work with them, not revolving around games and not revolving around results, is a big bonus,” he says.
“It will give me an opportunity to put a body of work together so they know exactly what’s expected of them and build relationships, both with staff and players, and then for us really to go into the second half of the season and give us the best possible chance of winning football matches. It is going to be vital, this break.
“There will be a gradual progression, but what we’ll do is paint a picture of what we would like to become.
“How quickly we can become that team depends on the buy-in from players, staff and everyone, a little bit of luck, a bit of God’s will, and obviously how much time we really get with them.”
As important as the relationship between players and staff is the connection with the Saints supporters, and Jones is hopeful that the team he wants to build will be one that engages the fanbase. Togetherness is key if the machine is to click into gear.
By his own admission, the 49-year-old is no shrinking violet on the touchline, and keen to involve the crowd as much as possible.
“We will build that, I’m sure,” he continues. “Results take that, performances take that. Yes, I’m a passionate guy, I want to win, sometimes that gets the better of me at times, but it all comes from a good place.
“I work very hard and make many sacrifices to be the best I can be. I want to build that rapport with them, I want them to see they have a manager who cares about their football club, but first and foremost they have to see a manager that can do good work at their football club and take the club forward.
“If we can prove that in the initial period then I’m sure we’ll build a wonderful rapport. I’m really excited. I work tirelessly to create environments and cultures that are aggressive, that are front-footed, that want to win football games.
“I want us to be a team that the fans can be really proud of and that they can relate to. I want the people of Southampton to look at the players and be proud of that team and how they go about their work, and win, lose or draw they know that they’ve got a proper group and a proper team that wants to play for Southampton, and that’s what I want to really implement here.
“There’s a great group, I know that. Yes, it’s going to take a little bit of time to implement all we want to do, but I know that if we get the backing of the players, if the fans get behind us, if we are united as one team, one goal, I know we can be successful at this level.”