Koeman ready to face former fans on return to St Mary's

LONDON • Everton manager Ronald Koeman is prepared for a mixed reception when he returns today to Southampton, the club he left at the end of last season.

Many Southampton supporters were angry at the time but the Dutchman, who led them to a sixth-place league finish and a spot in the Europa League, was unrepentant on Friday.

"I understand different opinions and (crowd) reactions. I am not afraid of that," he told a news conference.

"It's time to think about Everton. I made the choice and I'm really happy. It's a big club with a big history."

Asked what sort of reaction he was expecting for the Premier League encounter at St Mary's, he said: "I hope they will respect me. We had a great time. It is a stable Premier League club and it's a big achievement what Southampton did in the last five, six years."

Southampton manager Claude Puel urged fans to recognise Koeman's achievements and give the Dutchman a deserved welcome.

"He did very good work at Southampton and last season helped the club to play European games. I have a lot of respect for him and he deserves a positive reaction," the Frenchman said.

Everton have won just once in their last seven league games, while Southampton lost 0-1 to Sparta Prague in the Europa League in midweek.

"It was a disappointment of course with the result and also with the quality of our game," said Puel.

"It's important to keep a positive attitude. Now it's important to come back in the Premier League with good spirit, good attitude and a good recovery."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Koeman ready to face former fans on return to St Mary's'. Print Edition | Subscribe