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Nicola Cortese's departure a year on: an ode to Katharina Liebherr

Former Saints chairman Nicola Cortese left the club a year ago today. The media and some sub-sections of Southampton fans thought this spelled doom and gloom for the Hampshire side. How wrong they were.

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Southampton fans have had to put up with a lot of sensationalist media bollocks over the last year. It seems so long ago, but this time last year former Saints chairman Nicola Cortese left the club after an alleged dispute with the late great Markus Liebherr's daughter Katharina.

Markus Liebherr, a man whose name still echoes around St. Mary's every game, helped save Southampton from near-certain extinction after the club had found itself in financial ruin. Cortese was the smart, sophisticated frontman of the new Swiss-German-Italian regime, acting as chairman on Liebherr's behalf.

Upon hearing of St. Markus' untimely, tragic passing in the summer of 2010, many Saints fans were questioning whether Markus' daughter, the main financial benefactor of Markus' estate, would be willing to continue in assisting Cortese see out the much-publicised five-year plan of getting Southampton from League One to the heady heights of the Premier League. <!-- ######## START FLOATED VIDEO SNIPPET ######## -->

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Saints saw out that five-year plan by reaching the Premier League in just three seasons under Cortese's stewardship and the Liebherr family's continued financial backing. But, there were still rumblings that Cortese and Katharina Liebherr were at odds with eachother.

When Cortese joined as Saints chairman in 2009, he was initially a prickly character with the nation's football press. In his first season in charge of Saints, Cortese's actions led to a widespread media blackout of Southampton games - leading the UK's most popular newspapers to only refer to Southampton as "South Coast club".

The Swiss-Italian businessman soon realised his error and became cosy with various sections of the British football media. The sacking of Nigel Adkins brought Cortese's name back into some negative media spotlight once again in 2012, however his decision to bring in Mauricio Pochettino was soon viewed as a masterstroke, leading to more press fawning over the ruthless Cortese's calculated decision making.

It soon became apparent Katharina Liebherr's wish to become more involved in the club she was bankrolling didn't sit well with Cortese, who threw his toys out the pram and left the club following a reported dispute.

The media's reaction to what happened that day was telling. Even the M word started getting thrown around:

Just look at the sensationalist media hyperbole. The gross, blatant sexism. The pure ignorance.

Now I'm not claiming to be Nostradamus here; it would be easy to lie and say I wasn't worried at the news of Cortese's departure with the benefit of hindsight. However, the above shows just how quickly the British football press jumped to completely write Katharina off.

One thing the newspapers were right about was that Southampton's "stars" and coach jumped from what they thought was a sinking ship. Those articles were back in early 2014: the summer exodus of Saints players once again revved up the anti-Liebherr press machine as I'm sure any Saints fans reading will remember only too well.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there are quite a few Southampton fans out there with a case of small club syndrome. You'll often see them spouting off on social media about how certain journalists or football pundits don't like to see Southampton winning or how we're always overlooked in the Match of the Day running order.

But, can you blame Southampton fans for thinking this way? I'm quite a rational-thinking guy but I often found it hard reading some of the bollocks coming out of the mouths of former professionals and pundits alike.

Robbie Savage, for example, tipped Saints for relegation and on 5 Live announced it was "disgraceful" how the 'new' football-hating Southampton ownership refused to let Morgan Schneiderlin leave when he tried forcing an apparent move to Pochettino's new club Tottenham.

I know Savage is hardly the bastion of loyalty within football, but let's hang on for a second here: while the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Schneiderlin did a hell of a lot for our club in helping us up to the Premier League from League One, don't think for a second that Saints owe anything to those players - Southampton Football Club have benefited them at least as much as they did us. Funnily enough, Savage has since changed his tune on Saints... Strange one, that.

One of the most popular chants you'll hear at St. Mary's is our hearty rendition of "Who the f**k is laughing now?" to the tune of "Is this the way to Amarillo?". What was originally a song in response to what Saints' rivals Portsmouth sing having "sent the Scummers down", to me the song has taken on a whole new significance.

To me, the song is aimed at everyone: the press, the football pundits, the mercenary players (I'm looking at you, Dejan Lovren), Portsmouth... Everyone. And I, personally, sing that song with as much fervour as any other song for myself, those standing around me who pay an obscene amount of money to watch the team they love week in, week out, and for Katharina Liebherr - a woman who has had all sorts of rubbish thrown her way, but has stuck to her guns and is trying to fulfill the dreams of her late father.

I know Southampton will find it tough to stay in the top four and qualify for European football. There is still a massive part of me which is refusing to believe it's possible through fear of disappointment. But, you can't argue against the fact that Katharina Liebherr and Ralph Kruger's leadership has been nothing short of incredible given the outside influences working against them.

So thank you, Katharina. Thank you for sticking this thing out with us - Saints fans worldwide are incredibly appreciative of what you have done for the club and the wider Southampton community. I hope you enjoy "Who the f**k is laughing now?" songs as much as you do "Walking in a Liebherr wonderland."