After the success of back-to-back promotions to earn a spot in the Premier League, Southampton found life difficult initially. They weren’t assisted too well by an extremely difficult first few months of the campaign, and ultimately seemed destined for a year-long relegation scrap.
That is until things turned around when Saints’ new manager Mauricio Pochettino arrived to the club and ushered in a new high-pressing style and fast-paced tempo for the club to play with. Many Saints fans were massive backers of former boss Nigel Adkins and continue to be to this day, and his sacking was untimely and out of nowhere really, but nobody can argue with the results of the change triggered by chairman Nicola Cortese.
The Saints ultimately achieved the goal that they set out for last season: survival. And with the new season getting ready to kick off before we know it, the club’s ambitions provide a new challenge and exciting times for the fans of the club.
Many people still see Southampton as a small club with no funds for decent players. Quite the contrary, the club owners — the Liebherr Family — have made Southampton the fifth richest club in England and have fully backed the ambitions that Cortese has laid out for the club.
This is something that can be seen by the caliber of player the club is looking to sign (or have signed in the case of Croatian center back Dejan Lovren) including Victor Wanyama, Pablo Osvaldo, Mathieu Flamini and Éver Banega. These are players that Saints fans could only dream of a few years ago while sitting in League 1 thinking of the day that we would return to the promised land. Only time will tell us how many of these rumors pan out; We all know that they can get a bit out of hand with social media these days. But the ambition to move the club forward is clearly there for Cortese, which is something he has never shied away during his time at the club.
When Markus Liebherr and Cortese took over at Southampton, saving them from the brink of extinction, they publicly outlined a 5-year plan to put the team back in the Premier League. They successfully achieved that in record time, achieving the back-to-back promotions under Adkins and have always run their ship to ‘Premier League standard’ including a top notch training center in Staplewood.
The club recently released images of a possible stadium expansion with the question “Our Future?” This is something that would be a key aspect of pushing the club forward should they push into European competitions. It’s clear to see that the club have massive ambitions, and Cortese is the man to take the club as a whole forward.
One of the things that I personally enjoyed about last season with Saints was the way the team played cohesively. The team had no superstars who created Balotelli-esqe drama within the team, with the exception of keeper Artur Boruc’s incident with the fans during a match against Tottenham that can really be noted as a one-off scenario.
The team is anchored by talent that was mostly brought through the academy such as Adam Lallana and 17-year-old phenom Luke Shaw, while also featuring players who were brought in for bargains such as Rickie Lambert who signed for a bargain £1 million. But the spine of the team is located in the heart of midfield where Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork have become a serious dynamic duo for the South-coast club. Schneiderlin finished the season with the most successful tackles of any player in the Premier League, and the entire season for Saints changed when Cork returned from his ankle injury. That partnered with the goals from the joint-top English goalscorer from last season Rickie Lambert and his budding partner up top Jay Rodriguez, and the solid young center backs Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne, has set up great expectations for the Southampton faithful going into the 2013/14 season.
Hopefully the team will be able to put great runs together during the next season and prove the doubters wrong. There is no reason why a club can’t make an ascendency in the way Southampton have the opportunity to in the Premier League. They have an ambitious chairman, backing of the owners for necessary costs, plans to expand the stadium, and a phenomenal fan base who have recently been through the lowest of lows and new highs. It will be interesting to see the respect that Southampton will be able to earn should they pick up and leave off where they ended last season. One thing is for sure, the future is bright in red and white.