Southampton’s new Canadian Chairman chats growth in North America, NHL roots, Saints’ future

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EXCLUSIVE — On Wednesday Southampton Football Club appointed former NHL coach Ralph Krueger as their new Chairman at St. Mary’s Stadium, as the Premier League club took the unorthodox step of looking to Ice Hockey for their new leader.

Saints have been looking for a new figurehead since January when former Chairman Nicola Cortese left, and owner Katharina Liebherr has pounced to bring in Krueger, 54, who has a wealth of experience in the sports and business world.

Born in Canada, Krueger spent most of his playing days in Europe with the German national team and was a top marksman with Bundesliga side Dusseldorfer EG. Krueger then coached Switzerland and Austria in the Winter Olympics, before taking over at the Edmonton Oilers during the 2012-13 NHL season and as you can probably tell, Krueger is widely respected in hockey circles.

However after recently helping Team Canada to win Olympic Gold in Sochi, Krueger has switched ice for grass, and he couldn’t be happier about it. Initially it was thought Krueger would be an aide to the club, but now he’s the leading man. I caught up with Krueger on Wednesday, as he spoke to PST about his reasons for joining Saints and his plans for the future.

“The opportunity to grow the potential of the group is exciting,” Krueger said. “To see the foundation that’s here, going inside the sports soul of the academy and first team is very strong. The same is happening off the pitch, there are so many talented and motivated people. We have so much potential commercially and we have a great base to work with.”

Southampton are on the crest of a wave, with Saints pushing for their highest ever finish in the Premier League era this season — the team are currently ninth with nine PL games to go — and manager Mauricio Pochettino cultivating his talented crop of teenage superstars superbly at the teams renowned Staplewood training ground.

(MORE: After Gold medal success at Sochi, Krueger to start role at Southampton)

One of Krueger’s main aims is to increase the commercial success of Southampton, as the man who has been part of the World Economic Forum since 2011 is keen to exploit the wealth of untapped potential the South Coast club has. One area the 54-year-old would love to help Saints’ brand grow is overseas, including North America, without neglecting the club’s primary goal of becoming bigger in England, as Krueger also spoke of his aim to give the fans a definite voice within the club.

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Saints; owner Katharina Liebherr, left, has appointed Krueger as the man to take the ambitious PL club forward.

“Our primary goal is to build the club in the area where we live,” Krueger said. “But we want to build those other opportunities in the Far East and North America. I see that as a major responsibility that I have, to build the relationships to grow those markets. There is a huge gap where the club is at commercially and where it needs to be, nobody will give us the solution. We have to go out and work for it.”

During his unveiling at St. Mary’s Krueger talked about the ‘Southampton Way’ which has seen the club continue to develop elite youngsters who are representing not only the first team but also the national teams. Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers and James Ward-Prowse are current teenagers dazzling in the first team, while captain Adam Lallana is an academy product, as are global superstars Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Both of those players left Saints during the dark days which saw the club plummet to English soccer’s third-tier in 2010. But now they are back in the big time it’s the youngsters, with Shaw and Lallana now representing the English national team, will be the driving force behind Saints’ global brand.

“We can build the commercial arm of the organization both in Southampton and, for example, North America,” Krueger said. “We’d like to carve ourselves out as a unique club built on the soul of young players that are English. We want to try and tap into the potential of all that. I am really excited to support our commercial arms to do that.”

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

But what about his lack of soccer experience? Since news broke that Saints were handing Krueger a role on the board, many skeptics in England have questioned the motive behind hiring an individual who has always worked in the hockey industry.

I asked Krueger about his switch from hockey to soccer, and he gave a refreshingly honest answer, in keeping with his forthright, yet friendly, persona.

“The most important thing is that we want to create a unique, innovative and creative environment,” Krueger said. “I see it as an advantage that I come in without any previous experience in the Premier League, because there is a danger you get ‘stuck in a box.’ We want to be an organization that works ‘outside the box.’ We want to respect the heritage and history, but we want to separate ourselves from the other PL teams.”

source: AP
After coaching the Swiss and Austrian national hockey teams, plus a one-year stint with the Oilers, Krueger has switched hockey for soccer.

One of the main reasons Krueger was appointed was because of his background in motivational speaking and his strong leadership values. Krueger told me that initially he was keen to come on board as an aide to Liebherr but when she asked him to take the lead role, Krueger had no hesitation. The smooth transition he has made over the past few months getting to know the place and Liebherr has made the aftermath of Cortese’s departure a lot less damaging than it could’ve been.

When it comes to leading Southampton’s charge, Krueger is well-equipped from his time as a leader and motivational guru, with his book ‘Team Life: Over Losses to Success’ a best-seller on both sides of the pond. Implementing those values, along with his time spent working with the hugely influential World Economic Forum, which he will continued to do in his role as Southampton boss. Krueger told me he will spend as much time as possible in England, but will keep his home in Switzerland and did not put a definite period of time on his role with Saints.

“There is no time frame for myself, it’s just about coming here to try and nurture the environment to its potential,” Krueger said. “I’m open ended right now. We haven’t spoken about that, it’s all about ‘let’s get this going’ and do our best for the club. This could be a long-term step for me.”

(MORE:The dramatic rise of Southampton FC and their fans)

Krueger grew up in Manitoba, attending a British boarding school from a young age, and spoke about his time playing soccer on the fields, weather permitting, and his passion for the game and all sports. When asked about potentially helping the game grow in North America, Krueger was open to helping the game in any way he could in Canada and the U.S. and praised the impact the sport has for young people, including his two children,  in North America. He also mentioned that Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby is a huge soccer fan, and Krueger said Saints will probably get ‘Sid the Kid’ over to Southampton in August.

source: Getty Images
Krueger is adamant to include Saints’ fans in the conversation, as he wants to make the people who love the club a big part of the future.

The former Edmonton Oilers head coach, who coached the team during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, left the door open for a return to NHL, but insisted his sole aim is working as hard as he can to bring success to Southampton.

“I was confronted with NHL options around the Olympics and I had to make a decision immediately after Sochi,” Kruger said. “Honestly, this was the best fit for me as a person in my life. That other world doesn’t go away, that’s the beauty of sports. Even though you throw yourself whole-heartedly into one thing, it doesn’t mean  the other world is over. But this could be my last stop as a professional in sports.”

As for Southampton’s future, Krueger remained tight-lipped despite plenty of talk of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League in the not so distant future, and insisted his only job is to squeeze every ounce of potential from the upstart PL club. His drive and determination could be exactly what Saints need to get to the next level, as their rapid rise continues.

“I don’t like to promise results, that’s cheap,” Krueger said. “I like to promise that we will create processes that enables us to reach our potential. Where that takes us, nobody knows. The sky is the limit in sports. We would like to build a model where we are striving for that potential. My sole focus is on the process. If our environment feels that we are doing the best on a daily basis, we will accept the results that come with that. Maybe we can reach those high aspirations that everyone likes to talk about… let the process decide that and let’s throw ourselves into that. That’s what I’m all about.”

Przybylko stars again as Union hammer dire DCU (video)

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CHESTER, Pa. (AP) Kacper Przybylko had a goal and two assists in a dominant first half and the Philadelphia Union defeated D.C. United 3-1 on Saturday night.

[ MORE: NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video) ]

Przybylko scored his 12th goal from point-blank range off a cross from Kail Wagner five minutes in and the Union (14-8-6) were never challenged as they moved within a point of first-place Atlanta.

Brenden Aaronson, who helped set up Przybylko’s goal, had the favor returned in the 16th minute. Przybylko slipped the ball down the middle, Aaronson made the turn and then fired from the top of the box for his second goal.

Przybylko made a similar set up for Ilsinho’s fifth goal in the 36th minute. Ilsinho took the pass at the top of the box, worked his way through the defense before finding room to score.

DC United (10-10-9) didn’t have a shot in the first half. Luciano Acosta bulled his way through the defense for his sixth goal in the 56th minute. United turned the pressure up in the second half with four shots on target but remained in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): New York City FC erased an early deficit to beat the New York Red Bulls in the 2019 season’s second and final Hudson River derby, and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s battle for first place, and home-field advantage, in the process. Coming into the weekend, NYCFC sat third and trailed Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union by a single point. Atlanta beat Orlando City SC on Friday, and Philadelphia hammered D.C. United on Saturday. The gap between the top-three and fourth-place Red Bulls is now six points. Maxi Moralez scored from the penalty spot and Heber unleashed some absolute filth on Luis Robles (video below) after Alex Muyl put the visitors ahead inside 10 minutes played.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Bournemouth; Spurs host Newcastle ]

Three moments that mattered

10′ Muyl finishes down the left for an early lead — You don’t always get punished for turning the ball over in this area in MLS, but you should be.

43′ — Moralez wins penalty, converts penalty — Moralez was taken down inside the box by Michael Murillo for an unquestionably penalty not long before halftime. The Argentine converted with authority.

53′ — Heber backheel-nutmegs Robles for 2-1 — Yes, really.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Maxi Moralez

Goalscorers: Muyl (10′), Moralez (43′ – PK), Heber (53′)

PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Bournemouth; Spurs host Newcastle

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After six Premier League fixtures on Saturday, and one on Friday, three more remain in Matchweek 3. Roll on, Sunday…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Bournemouth v. Man City — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester City’s directive for the 2019-20 season is clear, and comes from 31 miles west of Manchester: if you’re not perfect — or very, very close to it — Liverpool will win the title. After dropping a pair of points at home to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, Man City find themselves in the chaser’s position, though it’s far from foreign to them after trailing the Reds by 10 points at one point last season. A trip to Bournemouth appears to be just what the doctor ordered: since the Cherries returned to the PL four seasons ago, City have trounced the south-coast side, winning all eight contests by a combined score of 25-3.

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is trying to see his side’s dismal record in a slightly more positive light.

“I think we know historically that if we perform our very best, we’ve got a chance of beating anybody. I think that’s been the story of our Premier League journey. We’ve had to play very well to get anything from the top teams. Every time we’ve played against them, and I’ve said this before, we’ve come from the pitch learning more about ourselves. And what we have to do to grow and become better.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth —  OUT: Lewis Cook (knee), Simon Francis (knee), Junior Stanislas (hamstring), Dan Gosling (hip), Lloyd Kelly (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Arnaut Danjuma (foot) | Man City  — OUT: John Stones (thigh), Benjamin Mendy (fitness), Leroy Sane (knee)


Tottenham v. Newcastle — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Tottenham are set to put their undefeated start to the still-young season on the line when Newcastle United visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A week after taking last weekend’s unlikely point, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side continues to get a little deeper and stronger with each passing day, with the exception of one fresh injury concern. Deadline-day arrival Giovani Lo Celso is yet to start for his new club, but the Argentine made his debut as a second-half substitute last weekend. Fast-forward a week and Lo Celso could be in line for that first start with fellow summer signing Tanguy Ndombele a doubt with what the club is calling a minor thigh injury. Son Heung-min, a double-digit goalscorer in three straight PL seasons, is also due back in the team after serving the final two games of his three-game suspension dating back to last season. So long as Harry Kane‘s ankle ligaments remain structurally sound, Pochettino has a real embarrassment of riches at his disposal (by Spurs’ standards), including the likes of Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, both of whom started the first two games on the bench.

As for Newcastle, life under new manager Steve Bruce is off to a far worse start than Pochettino’s sixth season at Spurs. Not only are the Magpies without a point from their first two games, but they were roundly played off the park by newly promoted Norwich City in a 3-1 defeat last weekend. There’s also the small matter of the supporters’ discontent over owner Mike Ashley’s operation of the club, chief among their concerns being his failure to retain Rafa Benitez. Miguel Almiron and Joelinton, Newcastle’s headlining attacking duo, are yet to find one another on the same page and have managed just one shot on target between them through two games. Newcastle’s six shots on target rank second-to-bottom in the PL.

INJURIES: Spurs —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Juan Foyth (ankle), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Tanguy Ndombele (thigh) | Newcastle  — OUT: DeAndre Yedlin (groin), Florian Lejeune (knee), Andy Carroll (fitness), Dwight Gayle (calf), Jack Colback (groin)


Wolves v. Burnley — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com

At this point, you’re probably wondering which is the only side with fewer shots on target than Newcastle. This might come as a shock to some, but it’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, last season’s seventh-place finishers and Europa League qualifiers. The night-and-day difference between the two sides being Wolves’ ability to still grind out results when they’re far from their very best. It’s true that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side has scored just one goal through two games, but it’s also true that they’ve conceded just once as well, and they have two points to show for their efforts against the likes of Manchester United and Leicester City. After picking up a 3-2 victory away to Torino in Europa League action on Thursday, Espirito Santo is likely to once more rotate a handful of starters and make use of his rather deep, and expensive, squad.

After spending much of last season near, or inside, the relegation zone, Sean Dyche‘s Burnley has looked one of the most improved sides in the PL. They followed up an opening-day dismantling of Southampton with a hard-fought 2-1 defeat away to Arsenal last weekend. Ashley Barnes is in fine form with three of the Clarets’ four goals scored this season.

INJURIES: Wolves —  QUESTIONABLE: Matt Doherty (illness) | Burnley  — OUT: Steven Defour (calf), Danny Drinkwater (fitness)

La Liga: Real Madrid disappoint in home draw with Valladolid

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Real Madrid 1-1 Real Valladolid

With Barcelona losing on the season’s opening day, and now Real Madrid dropping points on Saturday to the side that finished 16th last season, the 2019 La Liga title race appears to be wide open.

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid 1-0 up after 82 minutes, and Los Blancos appeared to have avoided a disappointing start to their home campaign. However, Sergi Guardiola (no relation to Pep) had other ideas when he bagged an unlikely equalizer in the 88th minute.

Eden Hazard remained out with a thigh injury and the $113-million Belgian isn’t expected to make his Madrid debut until after the season’s international break which takes place the first full weekend of September. James Rodriguez made his return to Real Madrid after two seasons on loan to Bayern Munich, but the Colombian was subbed off after 57 minutes to be replaced by Vinicius Junior.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Valencia
Getafe 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna 0-0 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Mallorca v. Real Sociedad — 11 a.m. ET
Alaves v. Espanyol — 11 a.m. ET
Leganes v. Atletico Madrid — 1 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Real Betis — 3 p.m. ET