There’s only one Nic Cortese

That's what we were all singing, on the pitch at St Mary Stadium at the end of the last season. We should be singing it again at the match against Everton, along with any tributes to Nigel Adkins.

They say a week is a long time in politics. It seems longer in football, but the truth is somewhat different. Since Nicola Cortese persuaded his friend and business associate, Markus Liebherr to take an interest in a down and out English football club, weeks turned into months, turned into years as we saw some much needed stability at Southampton Football Club.

I've supported the Saints through 26 different managers, and given that spanned the Ted Bates and McMenemy eras, in recent times they have been coming and going through a revolving door. Until Cortese brought some sanity back to the situation with his five year plan to take the team back to the Premiership. Not to where they belong, through some given right to be there, but to where they deserved to be through hard work and application by all members of staff, and with support of the fans who began to dream of a new age of enlightenment.

Part of that plan was to bring in new players. Not in a Harry Redknapp supermarket rush to round up anyone and everyone who was on special offer. But in a methodical who can we afford who will make us a bit better way. The prime example was Billy Sharp. Bought in to a specific job for a few games, which he did – just. Not a Saints legend. Not even a legend in the making, but a competent Championship footballer who could score the goals we needed in that division. I don't know of any Saints fan who thought he was premiership class. He did his job and was moved on.

The other key part of the plan was to have the leadership who could take us to the next step. Nigel Adkins got us promoted from Division One. He nearly didn't get us promoted from the Championship. And during the last quarter of last season and the first third of this his ability to take the team on to the next level was being questioned by Saints fans on a daily basis. His ability to keep us at this level, let alone taking us on, was being questioned by virtually every pundit and national newspaper who is now leaping to his defence.

Nigel Adkins did his job, for which a heartfelt thanks, and now he too has been moved on. People complain that it was brutal in its execution. That ordinary people aren't treated like that. And they aren't. But football managers aren't ordinary people. The are highly paid senior executives, and like all other highly paid senior executives, when a change is required it invariably happens within hours rather than days or weeks. The most obvious recent example being the short-lived Director General of the BBC who had done nothing wrong – hadn't been in post long enough to do right or wrong – but was shown the door in an instant.

But football fans are an odd bunch. I include myself in that. All season there has been constant complaints about team selection, lack of a keeper, points given away. But only one person has been prepared to do anything about it. Fortunately he happens to be the one person with the ability to take action.

Nigel was nice. Is nice. Thoroughly nice. But, as many people have said before, the statistics don't lie. Nigel's record in the Premiership is worse than any our permanent managers bar Redknapp, compounded by the fact we have lost 19 points from winning positions. Almost as many points as we've won.

I was one of Adkin's few defenders. Not because I thought he had all the skills we need, but because I thought he was a good guy and deserved a chance. And if Saints were a pub team with nothing at stake that would be true. But we aspire to better than that. I started watching the Saints in Division Three South. I have seen them come second in the (old) first division and win two cups in 55 years. The lack of trophies doesn't matter so much. what matters is that I have seen year upon year of mediocre football from a team that thought it knew its place. The story of the team throwing away an eight point lead at the top of the third division because the club collectively didn't think it was even second division material has left a lasting legacy with fans of a certain age.

Now we have a chairman for whom second place isn't good enough. Not everyone can come first, of course. But if we are not going to be first, or second or third it should be because we have tried the best we possibly can and we have been beaten by better clubs.

For the first time in my lifetime we have a Chairman who wants Saints to be better than merely mediocre.

And I, for one, say count me in.

There's only one Nic Cortese. Only one Nic Cortese.


Blueprint for Butterfly Survival Unveiled

Restoring and joining up habitat will prevent the UK’s threatened butterflies and moths from becoming extinct in the future, a groundbreaking report today revealed.

For the first time, the report by Butterfly Conservation provides concrete evidence that projects aimed at conserving butterflies and moths at a landscape-scale have enabled threatened species to flourish after decades of decline.

A landscape-scale approach works by improving and connecting land for wildlife by the coordinated conservation management of numerous sites for a range of species across a large natural area.

The report, Landscape-scale conservation for butterflies and moths: lessons from the UK, also shows that measures to conserve rare butterflies and moths have helped other threatened species as well as the habitats in which they live.

Butterflies are the most threatened wildlife group; more than three-quarters of Britain’s 57 resident species are declining and over 40% are listed as Priorities for Conservation. More than 80 moth species are also at risk.

Most threatened species are now confined to small patches of habitat that have been left isolated within the modern intensively managed countryside. For over a decade, Butterfly Conservation has adopted a landscape-scale approach to conserving these areas in order to manage existing habitats more effectively and link them with newly restored habitats. This combination of targeted management and restoration has allowed many species to flourish in each of the 12 landscapes covered in the report.

Examples include the Small Blue in Warwickshire which has increased from a low of three to eight colonies in just three years.

The numbers of Marsh Fritillary in one Dartmoor valley have increased by more than 1000% in five years and the number of Pearl-bordered Fritillary colonies in the Wyre Forest in the West Midlands doubled in ten years.

The report lends weight to the recent Government paper by ecologist Professor Sir John Lawton Making Space for Nature which states that we must habitats far bigger, better managed and more connected if species are to survive in the future.

Sir John said,

The Butterfly Conservation report shows what can be achieved through a highly focused species-led approach.

Very simply ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ works, and needs to be rolled out far more widely. Recreating, restoring and joining up habitats benefits not just butterflies and moths, but a host of other creatures with which they share their habitat.

Dr Sam Ellis, Butterfly Conservation Head of Regions, said:

Our report shows that landscape-scale conservation works for our most threatened species. We now need to raise the funds to implement landscape projects across the UK to halt the dramatic decline of butterflies and moths.

Butterfly Conservation is calling on government to provide more funding for landscape-scale initiatives and targeted species conservation in order to reverse the decline in biodiversity and achieve the government’s 2020 targets on biodiversity. Getting this government to put money into its biodiversity targets may be pushing on a closed door, as the Autumn statement may show tomorrow. But, hey, only two and half years to polling day.

The report Landscape-scale conservation for butterflies and moths: lessons from the UK is available from the Butterfly Conservation website