When Norwich City secured the incredible feat of two successive promotions to regain their status in the Premier League, few envisaged their heroics of the last 24 months being emulated again this time round. But Southampton, two and a half years after being saved from the brink of extinction, sit top of the Championship table and within sight of a miraculous promotion to the top flight.
If they do return to England’s top table after a seven year absence, if being the all-important word, they certainly won’t be there to scrape survival and embroil themselves in relegation dogfights like the Southampton side of the 1990’s. Here’s five reasons why Saints have every chance of cutting it in the Premier League.
Deep financial woes, coupled with boardroom unrest and a sharp decline off the pitch following relegation from the Premier League in 2005, seem a distant memory for Saints fans now – and that is all down to the takeover of Swiss billionaire Markus Liebherr, who sadly passed away in August 2010, just 14 months before his death. This made Southampton one of the richest clubs in English football, with the debts of previous owners eradicated and the slate wiped clean for a fresh start.
The signings of Steve De Ridder, Jack Cork and Billy Sharp have provided further indication that Saints mean business
The financial backing remains with the Liebherr family, and the ambition is matched by Chairman and hardnosed Italian businessman Nicola Cortese. He’s worked wonders in terms of making funds available for investment in the squad already, and he has said that the money will be there to spend again if the club return to the Premier League. In previous years in the top flight, Saints have been restricted by small wage budgets and lacking the financial muscle to compete with Premier League rivals on a level playing field. Now, the club are on the up. The million pound signing of Rickie Lambert and seven figure addition of Jose Fonte in League One were marquee moments in the Southampton revolution, and the signings of Steve De Ridder, Jack Cork and Billy Sharp have provided further indication that Saints mean business.
Premier League football by 2014 was the target from the moment Cortese and Liebherr set foot in Southampton, and that hasn’t changed. The belief the players, manager Nigel Adkins and the boardroom staff have in this target being achieved is very strong. But the ambition of the new owners and the club going forward is much more than that, and the infrastructure is there to make Southampton much more than a yo-yo club, or a team hoping for nothing more than Premier League survival, with the lucrative parachute payments to fall back on.
Who needs Mourinho? We’ve got an ex physio
Much like the success or Norwich City, who are proving it wasn’t a fluke by flying high in the Premier League, much of the incredible upturn in fortunes has been down to the manager. Nigel Adkins took over the reigns at St. Mary’s with the club in the bottom half of the League One table and struggling to deal with the passing of Swiss saviour Markus Liebherr. Adkins, who has enjoyed promotion from League One with Scunthorpe in recent years, instantly lifted morale and the form to go with it. Many might just see him as a barrage of puns and clichés when they see his post-match interviews, but he is one of the few managers around that is backed fully by all the fans, and he merits all the praise he gets with the instant success he has enjoyed at Southampton.
Southampton have one of the most lethal goalscorers in the football league
Rickie Lambert, Southampton’s Goal Machine
A key component to any successful side is a predator – a prolific goalscorer who will guarantee you twenty goals a season. In Liverpudlian striker Rickie Lambert, Southampton have one of the most lethal goalscorers in the football league. He notched 36 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club, banged in 21 goals in the League One promotion campaign and he has defied critics who said he couldn’t repeat his success in the Championship by soaring ahead in the goalscoring charts – hitting the net six times more than second top scorer Ross McCormack.
As well as being a powerful target man who is typically dangerous in the air, he has got great feet, he’s a lethal finisher and has an ability to emphatically score every penalty he takes, and score free-kicks and goals from long range. Grant Holt would be the biggest comparison in the Premier League right now, as they have had a similar background of topping the scoring charts in the lower leagues, and Lambert has got every chance of making an impression in the big time and scoring crucial goals that could boost survival ambitions and be the catalyst for consolidation in the top flight.
Lallana’s technical ability, movement and creative flair is destined for Premier League football
Fortress St Mary’s
Another vital element to a successful side is a strong home record, and a stadium that they can call a fortress. In St. Mary’s, Southampton certainly have one, and the club have only failed to win five league games at home this season, and broke records galore by winning 21 consecutive league games at home in 2011. This astonishing record has been the platform for promotion success last season and remaining in the top two all season this time round. If Saints do secure a return to the Premier League over the next ten games, St. Mary’s will be packed to the rafters in every home game next season, and the team will have the belief they can give any time a run for their money when they visit the south coast.
He plays on the left, he plays on the right, Adam Lallana makes Messi look….
We all know that Southampton playmaker Adam Lallana doesn’t come close to Barcelona’s World Player of the Year, but this chant shows the status he has with the fans, and he has been the creative linchpin who has made a massive difference over the last three seasons. Arguably the outstanding player in the Championship this year, which has been reflected by his nomination for the division’s player of the year award, Lallana’s technical ability, movement and creative flair is destined for Premier League football. While Saints are by no way a one or two man team, if you include Lambert in this, Adkins’ side looks far better going forward when he is in the starting line-up, and few Championship supporters would argue that he doesn’t deserve the accolade of the
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