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Chairman Ralph Krueger leaves Southampton

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Influential Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger will leave the club effective June 30, saying:

“Everything has a beginning and everything has an end. It is the journey in-between that I will treasure. Thank you Southampton Football Club for the journey.”

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Krueger was a surprise hire at St. Mary’s, having come from a hockey background in Germany and a short stint with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

Shortly after the time in Alberta, Krueger signed on to run Saints, shepherding the club after Mauricio Pochettino left to join Tottenham Hotspur.

The team qualified for the League Cup Final under his stewardship, and twice qualified for the Europa League.

But successive Premier League relegation scraps led to a change, and perhaps the timing of the end of the NHL regular season could also be a sign that hockey is calling him home?

Saints owner Katharina Liebherr said, “Ralph laid the foundations for the Saints to be a sustainable team that put pressure on the top sides in the Premier League.”

That’s the truth. What’s next for Ralph? JPW spoke at length with the chairman in 2017. We trust you’ll be impressed with the men (or both men. Your call).

PHOTOS: Premier League trophy meets Stanley Cup champion Capitals

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Anyone who’s covered a National Hockey League game or had reason to be in the bowels of an NHL arena a couple of hours before game knows that plenty of hockey players are Premier League fans.

Both teams can be found juggling the ball in a circle before games, and social media has shed some light on who supports which teams.

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Well some of the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals laid the preferences bare when the Premier League Trophy hit their locker room on Thursday.

Spoiler alert: The only things blue were the Man City ribbons on the trophy. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov are Liverpool supporters, Nicklas Backstrom enjoys Arsenal, and as usual a host of players like Manchester United.

Krueger: “Interesting chats” about NHL, but committed to Southampton

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Hockey has rarely been far from the conversation when it comes to Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger, with Wayne Gretzky talking him up and Krueger coaching Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Considered a leader’s leader at Southampton, his first foray into the Premier League, the 57-year-old Krueger is widely considered to have gotten a raw deal from the then-dysfunctional Edmonton Oilers in his only NHL coaching gig, and the Canadian played two seasons in the WHL before moving to hockey’s Bundesliga in 1979.

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The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks reportedly want to give Krueger his next shot, and the Saints chairman had this to say to respected hockey journalist Elliotte Friedman.

“For now” may seem ominous, but it’s similar to comments he made back in September regarding his tenure at Saints in the face of NHL speculation.

Krueger is an impressive man and Southampton an amazing enterprise, but will the lure of his first love eventually win out?

After Gold medal success at Sochi, former NHL coach Ralph Krueger to start role at Southampton

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Southampton have had a terrific season in the Premier League, as the Saints sit in ninth spot and have been impressing with their attractive style and crop of talented teenage sensations.

Off the pitch, there was a little bit of unrest when Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese walked out in January, but since then the club has been stabilized by billionaire owner Katharina Liebherr steeping in as Non-Executive Chairwoman and calming things down considerably.

The German born-Swiss owner has assembled a top backroom staff to help her run Premier League Southampton as she has no previous experience in soccer, with Austrian football agent Josef Lenhart joining as a director. But it was a little strange when it was announced last month that former Edmonton Oilers and Swiss national team hockey coach Ralph Krueger would be joining Southampton.

Know for his hugely successful motivational techniques on both sides of the Atlantic, Krueger has just returned from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as an adviser to the Canadian national hockey team that won Olympic gold. Now the 54-year-old is in Southampton and eager to help Saints move onto the next level alongside Liebherr.

This is what Krueger had to say when interviewed in Sochi, as he insisted he doesn’t want to get involved in the coaching side of things and will instead leave that to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

“Katharina was looking for someone to come in from sport on the leadership side. We’ll look at ways to improve commercially and continue to grow what’s already there. This is the start of a new world for me. I’ve got to come in gently. We don’t need sudden changes of direction. What Mauricio [Pochettino] doesn’t need is someone getting involved day-to-day. He and his staff need space so they can continue to grow the group. I’ve met Mauricio; he’s very honest, a strong personality and he has strong values. I will stay in my place. He should feel comfortable.”

Saints have had a track record of making peculiar appointments when it comes to coaching staff. Back in 2005 when they were first relegated to the English Championship from the Premier League, former England Rugby Union coach Sir Clive Woodward joined on a development role to work with the academy. That didn’t last too long, but it proves that Saints are always thinking outside the box with how to move forward.

Can Krueger be successful after switching the world of ice hockey for soccer? This is going to be very interesting.