Koeman prepared for mixed reaction from former fans
LONDON (Reuters) - Everton manager Ronald Koeman is prepared for a mixed reception when he returns on Sunday 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.
"That’s football. The manager changes, players change. Look forward, it’s the best what you can do."
Asked what sort of reaction he was expecting for the Premier League encounter at St Mary's, he said: "I cannot change opinions, feelings of Southampton fans. I hope they will respect me. We had a great time and after my career I will look back.
"It is a stable Premier League club and it’s a big achievement what Southampton did in the last five, six years in a row."
Southampton boss Claude Puel urged fans to recognise Koeman's achievements at the club and give the Dutchman a deserved warm welcome.
"He did very good work at Southampton and last season helped the club to play European games. This is very important. I have a lot of respect for him and for his work," Puel told reporters.
"Of course he deserves a positive reaction. The fans are excited to see their former trainer, it is important to respect him and his work here."
Koeman's new club, who sit seventh in the table, five points and four places ahead of Southampton, have amended their playing style a little, he said.
"We like to play a little bit different than Everton did in the last couple of years. One time we do well, another it’s not quite what I want.
"It’s difficult to change system and expect different things from players.
"You can't change everything in two months. You need more time. That's difficult. You don't get time in football."
Everton have won just once in their last seven league games, losing 5-0 at Chelsea before scrambling a late draw at home to bottom club Swansea City last weekend.
"The first half against Swansea was really disappointing," Koeman said. "We need to start much better than we did in recent games."
(Reporting by Steve Tongue, additional reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)