Ruben Selles wants to be Southampton manager. And as he prepared for his audition for the role he already sounded like a manager, having been acting like one all week.
In some ways it is no wonder. Selles now has an opportunity that has been a long time coming.
The Spaniard is just 39 but has been coaching since his mid-20s.
He has been a fitness coach, assistant manager, data analyst and caretaker. He is well-travelled and multi-lingual having worked across the globe in Greece, Spain, Russia, Azerbaijan, Denmark and England.
All of that has given him plenty of first-hand experience of different roles, countries and colleagues to learn and take the best bits from and shape his approach.
Ruben Selles will take charge of Southampton for their trip to Chelsea on Saturday
Selles arrived at St Mary’s last year to work under Ralph Hasenhuttl prior to his sacking
His latest move brought him to Southampton last summer and this week circumstances have left him preparing to take charge of the south coast club for the first time in the Premier League at Chelsea on Saturday.
Selles led Southampton against Sheffield Wednesday in an interim role in November after Ralph Hasenhuttl was sacked, overseeing a Carabao Cup penalty shootout win which he followed with a group huddle and passionate speech.
There are said to have been similar scenes and signs of togetherness led and encouraged by Selles this week.
He was placed in charge following last Sunday’s dismissal of Nathan Jones and the breakdown in talks to appoint Jesse Marsch as the Welshman’s successor meant Selles’s work would not be limited to just holding the fort for a few days.
He will lead Southampton at Stamford Bridge and, who knows, it might be longer.
It is a prospect that Southampton are not ruling out, perhaps supported by a more experienced coach or two.
Even though it was not until Wednesday that it was confirmed he would get the Chelsea game at least Selles is said to have worked as if that responsibility would be his from the very start of his latest stand-in stint.
That has reduced the need for a frantic instilling of methods in the last few days and any disruption that might have been caused by Southampton’s managerial search.
As one source close to Southampton said, Selles is ready to become a manager.
Talks with Jesse Marsch broke down, leading to Selles getting his opportunity to prove himself
‘I have been feeling ready the last four years, so it’s no different now, it’s just the scenario is bigger than it was before,’ he confirmed, before explaining: ‘Last time it happened with Ralph I told the players from the very beginning that I know that sometimes these situations are temporary.
‘But I’m going to take things as if I’m here for the next ten years, so I need everybody to follow and work as hard as you can in that direction. From the security man in the house to the captain, and that’s what we’ve done.’
Selles is highly regarded by Southampton. He left Copenhagen last summer to join Hasenhuttl’s backroom team following Southampton’s overhauling of their coaching staff and exceeded expectations with the positive impression he made.
With relations between Hasenhuttl, not the keenest of communicators, and his players strained, Selles helped bridge the gap and bring some of the qualities the Austrian lacked, leaving the players ‘buzzing’ in pre-season and the mood much-improved.
A social media clip Southampton posted of training full of smiling players’ faces appeared to be hinting that a repeat impact was being made.
Selles, his methods and style of coaching have all proved popular with Southampton’s players since he arrived.
The way he wants to see football played is described as closer to the proactive, aggressive, fearless style Southampton displayed in some of their peak performances under Hasenhuttl.
He is thorough in his work, attention to detail a stand-out attribute. Multiple people who have had dealings with Selles talk of his personal qualities and words like friendly, nice guy and approachable are mentioned.
Southampton are set to face Graham Potter’s Chelsea, who spent over £300m in January
Southampton’s players would have felt that again in meetings with him this week.
Selles has held a number of them with the whole group, individual players and the separate sections of his team, making sure everyone is clear about their roles and responsibilities against Chelsea.
Time will tell whether and how that all translates onto the pitch. A trip to football’s biggest spenders is hardly the easiest start for Selles with the league’s bottom side. But there is no doubt about what he wants.
He said: ‘I want to be the manager. I think I’m as capable of doing that as any other, but it’s not my decision. I have the team now and we are really working hard to do our best. Of course I would be happy to do the job.’