In the wake of the shock news of the sackings of Les Reed and Martin Hunter, Saints chairman Ralph Krueger faced the Daily Echo’s chief sports writer, Adam Leitch, to discuss the move and the future for the club.

In the interview they also talked about the structure of the club’s ownership board, Mark Hughes’ position, plans for the January transfer window and whether supporters can expect investment from majority owner Gao Jisheng.

We print the transcript of their conversation here…

I assume this has been a difficult week for you with the decision that has been made. Can you talk us through the decision to get rid of Les and Martin?

The processes we experience in professional sport are sometimes extremely kind and enjoyable and sometimes extremely tough. We are at different ends of the spectrum day to day here irrelevant of how the team is doing.

This week has been at the very extreme end of difficulty in so far as the work and the dedication and the time that Les and Martin have invested in the development of Southampton Football Club, the evolution of the framework here. We have a lot of respect for what they’ve given the club and for their era, which is truly an era.

As it is in sports things come to an end and the ownership board, which I sit on, has made this decision and we feel it is the right time to look at a change of philosophy and a renewal of the process that we have in the club.

It’s important to recognise what’s happened and not forget that and also realise that anything good that happens from here forward that Les and Martin will be a part of, Les in the whole structure of football and Martin especially in the youth.

There is an opportunity now, what I call a space, and we will move on into that space now and make it an opportunity and look at ways to make adjustments that will get us back on track in line with the expectations which we have which we are not hitting right now with the first team.

There is way more right than wrong in the club right now. There’s a lot of good things.

What we have slipped on is percentage points, and we were getting those right four years in a row, and we’ve been getting them wrong. We don’t feel we are out of reach and our expectations are out of line with where we can go as a group but we have to get back there.

This move has been requested by the ownership board and it was mine to execute and carry out and it’s been difficult and painful but the pain creates energy, and with this energy we need to move forward.

Why now? Why not in the summer if you are into future planning?

The process to a decision like this is one that doesn’t happen overnight. This is a big picture decision. This is a club philosophy in regards to football. It is certainly not personal, it is more where we want to be in the long term and how we see the best way to get there.

The ownership board didn’t have that feeling post last season.

We have to remember the four years before were truly outstanding, we reached our potential, we were on average the best of the rest. One season of performances we weren’t happy with didn’t lead to this feeling yet.

However, the start phase of this season pushed the ownership board into this place.

How about the process going forward and appointing a new vice chairman of football or director of football?

We have many good people here in the club with different specialities.

One of the things we want to do is go through a very very intense process of analysis which goes in two directions.

One is inside the club – what do we have, what are our strengths, what are the qualities of the people we have right now, what are they capable of doing?

From that we will see where the holes are and what’s missing and what we need to do.

I will be chairing a team that will be working as a satellite outside of the important day to day operations we have to carry out right now.

The focus on getting the team on track now is very big and most of our present staff will be tasked with getting on with that.

Outside of that I am chairing a satellite group which will be made up with people from inside the circle of the club, whether ownership or operational, and we will be accessing experienced football people.

We will take what we have in the club and what we have and open our minds up to the football world to decide what is the best structure for this club going forward before we then go after the people.

So it’s not a case of trying to just fill two job vacancies?

Absolutely not and Les Reed in his form is not replaceable in English football.

His amazing wealth of experiences that come together within one man is not available and it is not what we are looking for which is what we need to do.

That space is an area where some people will step in to take care of business day to day but the structure of the club moving forward and the way we want to position our professional and amateur arms of the club for what today’s game needs because the Premier League is getting tougher to be competitive in every year, the bar is going up and we need to go with it and do some things to compete with that change and never ending pressure.

At the same time the thing we are proudest about is the teaching of football, the thing we are good at is the teaching of football. That area of the club needs to be managed properly.

When you look at the spaces that we have now, who and how that will end up looking I can’t tell you today. That is a process that has just begun this week.

I am putting that team together right now and reaching out to people that I trust and we will keep you posted and communicate with our fanbase as this process goes on.

I have to be honest, I am not sure how it is going to end or the job description of the people we then go out and search for, but the priority is the competitiveness that is necessary for the Premier League and the continued teaching and development of academy players and that amateur arm that means so much to us.

This sounds like a long process, does that mean Mark Hughes’ job will be safe for a long period because there is nobody in the role Les occupied to take that decision if it were ever required?

These are the changes we have made and we are very comfortable with the personnel and the staff we have in place and Mark is in the lead in the most visible of all football roles.

We are expecting a change in performance and a change in results with some minor shifts we have done within the club.

We are going optimistically into the game against Watford and I think that the energy we needed to make these changes was massive and we have expended that. It’s now about let’s appraise our situation and what do we have and then we make further decisions.

I have gone through all the leaders of football in the different roles and we have a lot of good people in that environment and we will let them go to work.

I understand that but we have a transfer window on the horizon and a team who have only won one league game this season. These are important football decisions so are you now hamstrung to make decisions on players or changing managers if needed without Les or an immediate replacement and if not who makes those decisions in the interim period?

Ultimately, I am responsible for those decisions. I always was. The operational team that is in place here supports me in all my decisions.

I work with a team I trust and going through our senior managers into our heads of I am very trustworthy of the information and inputs I get, but my job is to make hard decisions if they are called upon.

If you want to know who is ultimately responsible at the moment as I am for our present position in the table then I take responsibility. We are not hiding or blaming anybody in this change. We are all responsible for where we are today and we must step up to the plate and get this club back on track.

If a hard decision would need to be made in the next months with our present personnel, it would be mine.

As we are close to January do you expect there to be a budget for new signings?

This will be my sixth January here now and Januarys in general have not been active for us.

We made some timely purchases if you think of the timing around Gabbi or Charlie. There were strong Januarys and some where we didn’t do as much or didn’t work out last year with Carillo.

January is not a month that in November you set a clear strategy for.

We have so much football coming up here in November and December, there are so many games that our world can change dramatically in different ways.

Our recruitment and scouting is going through exactly the same process as always and we had meetings here last weekend where the information is exchanged out in the market we could be interested in for relevant positions.

That is a never-ending process for 12 months of the year and we are prepared and have a target list that could come in. An injury can drive us there and not just poor performance…

The question is more on the budget and do you foresee there being money there if you need it?

We feel we have an extremely deep roster right now so at the moment we don’t plan to be active in January.

We have the capability of being active but at the moment I would say we are not planning for activity in January.

There are a lot of games so I would never say never but at the moment.

We have a team in place capable of dealing with that process if needed. I have spent two days speaking to everybody and we have everything in place to continue to deal with the day to day business as always.

You spoke of the ownership board. Firstly, who is on that board, and, secondly, was this decision from the owner or something he has merely authorised?

On the ownership board is Mr Gao, his daughter Nelly, Katharina (Liebherr), Ms Li, who is the finance person on the board, and myself.

Thus far the ultimate decision on anything of course lies with the person who owns the majority of the team but we have always since I’ve been here had a unanimous decision in the end.

There has been a lot of talk about Mr Gao being a very passive owner so is he taking a more active role now?

We communicate almost daily and the communication from his side is supportive, positive, encouraging.

We all know it’s been a very tough run and I can say we have nothing but support.

We are in complete operational responsibility here at the club, we have had no change in that operational structure since he’s come in and we have his backing and confidence.

As I was doing with Katharina it is the same process but with Katharina and Mr Gao and the communication is very healthy, very direct, very often, and both of them have excellent instincts that flow back into the operational level of the club they give me full responsibility for.

We have a healthy football club right now in a difficult situation. We aren’t an unhealthy club in any way other than we need to get the results back on the pitch to where they need to be, we need to find those percentage points and we cannot accept the results.

We are every bit as angry as our fans, and the players feel the same, and it’s important people understand how we work.

The ownership strategically making the direction and operationally we are authorised to run the club, we have his full backing and he has never wavered on that.

I am very grateful for the support and the understanding, especially in what has been a tough run, that we are getting. We have absolutely no excuses there for sure.

With regards Mr Gao, there was talk of investment in infrastructure rather than the team which hasn’t come to fruition yet. Can we expect that or, as you indicated at the fan’s forum, Mr Gao’s investment was in buying the club and for the time being that’s where his investment ends?

That’s where we are at right now.

I would never say never about the future but at the moment we are running a responsible business and our numbers are transparent for everybody to see here in the UK, which is a good thing.

Everybody can see we are running a responsible, self-sustaining business where we reinvest everything back in football.

There is investment there because you could hypothetically say as an owner ‘ok, I have invested this so I am taking this out every year,’ whereas we reinvest everything back into football so it’s self-sustaining with reinvestment.

We have done well on player trading and that gave us the opportunity to invest in the summer.

My mandate is to work with that model and I embrace it and I enjoy it, as does the board, and as do the people in the club. We internally respect that position and take that challenge on.

We were able to deal responsibly with last season financially and are in a good place.

Even though the results frustrate all of us right now and, for me, the fans have been outstanding in their support in this time, but we have a healthy club, good staff, we are doing way more right than wrong but have to get that edge back.

We are working really hard at that.

Just yesterday watching the team train at St Mary’s I am confident we have the group that can get this back on track.

We have 27 games ahead of us and it’s not going to be an easy ride back but we would like to push ourselves back to the top of the group that has been struggling of late then inch our way back to midtable.

We are reaching for that, we believe it is possible and we know no one will give it to us, we will have to earn it, but we are putting in the hours right now and hopefully those results begin against Watford.