When the Saints go marching up

As Southampton FC repeat the double promotion success of Norwich this article will preview the task ahead of survival and retaining their Premier League status for the 2013/14 season.

Even discussing Southampton’s chances of top flight survival seemed like a distant dream even in April 2009 when they were handed a ten point deduction and suffered relegation into League One after entering administration and staring bankruptcy straight in the face. After initially finishing 7th in League One, outside of the play-off positions, Alan Pardew was sacked as manager and in some parallel universe would not have had the opportunity to lead Newcastle to the top end of the Premier League and into Europe. In the end however the decision was the correct one for both parties as they will now have the opportunity to face off in the top tier of England’s footballing pyramid. The clear mindedness and decision making from the top can only filter down positively to the players and proves the club are capable of making the difficult decisions to benefit their development and future.

The Nigel Adkins era brought instant success with promotion to the Championship which included a record number of clean sheets in one season for Southampton proving he has the organisation abilities to adapt to the high demands of the Premier League. The following season proves he can also coach the attacking side of things as striker Ricky Lambert finished as the ‘Golden Boot’ winner and was also the Championship Player of the Year for 2011-12.  Adkins himself has plenty of experience and ambition. He has lead Scunthorpe on survival missions in the Championship and has both failed and succeeded. These experiences will only maker Adkins wiser to the challenge and the fact he has experienced relegation only to bounce straight back into the Championship and survive is testimony to his stubbornness and his desire to succeed. In fact Adkins has stated over the summer that the saints will be targeting a place in Europe in the coming years. Many might argue that the club are getting ahead of themselves but the awareness and appreciation of the importance of having a long term plan places the future of the saints in good stead.

Summer recruits have looked promising to aid the survival of the saints. Southampton smashed their transfer record to the tune of £6M to sign Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez, Burnley top scorer and earned himself a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year. Also capped at England U-21 level, there is no reason to see why he can’t follow the success of other former championship strikers recruited to aid the survival bid of a club for example Danny Graham last season. Aside from their record purchase the shrewd moves for Steven Davis on a free and promising defender Nathaniel Clyne for a modest £2.5M adds depth and quality to their already talented squad containing the likes of Lambert, fellow Championship team of the year team-mate Adam Lallana and ex-Chelsea midfielder Jack Cork who remarkably played every single Championship game last season.

Speaking of long term planning Southampton are also blessed with an often overlooked but very successful academy. The Saints Academy has produced in recent years the likes of Theo Walcott, Wayne Bridge, Gareth Bale, Nathan Dyer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the previously mentioned Adam Lallana. Critics will point to the fact that all but one of these graduates have moved on since but the extra revenue player sales will produce will allow the saints to dip into the transfer market for better quality players and the fact the club now has Premiership status could be a deciding factor in keeping these players who have graduated for longer.

Southampton are a club steeped in history and with a stadium such as St. Mary’s with a capacity of over 32,000 belongs to the big time. Indeed the Premier League is richer for having the saints and all the signs suggest that they will reward the league and its followers with a display of quality football, excitement and ultimately survival come the end of the season.

Tomos Llewellyn

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