A Little Bit of History…
The past 10 years have been interesting for Southampton, a club situated on the picturesque South Coast of England. Under managers Nigel Adkins, Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and then Claude Puel, the team achieved promotions, respectable league finishes of 8th, 7th and 6th and reached a League Cup final. But life under subsequent managers Mauricio Pellegrino and Mark Hughes was less enjoyable, with the club skirting with relegation.
Under Austrian Ralph Hasenhüttl (below), who has been in the managers seat since December 2018, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. They’ve made the headlines for both the right and the wrong reasons. They had a great start to the 20/21 season, and even briefly topped the Premier League table in early November, but they quickly fell away, finally finishing a disappointing 15th. They’ve also suffered the indignity of two 9-0 thrashings under Hasenhüttl – one at home to Leicester City in October 2019, and one away at Manchester United in February 2021.
Most managers would’ve been shown the door after humiliations such as that (especially the Leicester City game – it was a horror show, hard for even neutrals to watch), but the club seems to have great faith in the man dubbed ‘The Alpine Klopp’; he signed a new contract in June 2020 to keep him at the club until 2024.
Southampton have enjoyed nine consecutive seasons in the top tier of English football, and fans will be hoping that this year will make ten.
One of the remarkable facts about The Saints is the sheer number of top-quality players that have played for them before being sold to other clubs around the world. Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mané, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Dušan Tadić, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Morgan Schneiderlin and Gareth Bale, the $118 million man, have all pulled on the red and white striped shirt in the past. It makes you wonder where Southampton would be if they could’ve kept just some of these players.
The Season Ahead…
For many Saints fans, a little period of stability during the 2021/22 season would be welcome. Hasenhüttl needs to established a more even-handed football team if they are going to progress further in the Premier League, as opposed to the ups-and-downs that they’ve been through over the last few seasons. With Danny Ings exiting St Mary’s for Villa Park, a replacement striker was needed, and the club have found one in Adam Armstrong, who has signed from Championship club Blackburn Rovers. With 28 goals in 40 appearances, the 24-year-old was second in the Championship scoring charts last season. It will be a huge step up in quality for Armstrong, as it is for any Championship player moving to the Premier League, but he has the talent to flourish in the top tier.
After a season long at the club from Everton, prodigal son Theo Walcott has signed a permanent contract at Southampton, returning back to the club where his career started in 2005. He’s 32 now, and while he never truly hit the heights that were expected of him during his time at Arsenal, he is still a highly talented player to have in the squad.
The other departures have been numerous this summer, including experience defender Ryan Bertrand, who joined Leicester City on a free transfer. The big concern for Southampton fans as they enter the new season will be the transfer rumours surrounding James Ward-Prowse (below). The highly talented midfielder with pin-point free kick accuracy, has been a one club man for his entire playing career, having been born down the road in Portsmouth. Gossip started swirling that Aston Villa wanted to sign the 26-year-old and reunite him with Danny Ings, and it now appears that Tottenham Hotspur has joined the hunt too. If Ward-Prowse does move on to pastures new, it’ll be another huge blow for Southampton’s progress.
Location Southampton, Hampshire
Stadium St Mary’s Stadium (32,384 capacity)
20/21 Final League Position 15th
Opening Game of 21/22 Season away at Everton
21/22 Predicted Final League Position 13th
Hasenhüttl is a popular, charismatic manager, and a a few steps up the league ladder can be expected. But until Southampton stop selling their best players to whoever comes knocking, how can they ever really gain any traction? Perhaps treading water in the league is all that the fans of this club by the sea can expect.