Southampton – a team that played their football in England’s top division for the best part of 30 years.
After a seven-year absence from the Premier League that would have undoubtedly seen Matt Le Tissier wincing at every twist and turn, this south coast team is back where it belongs.
Currently in the top flight since 2012, their on-field success has enabled the backroom staff to go out and buy big, leading to consistent finishes inside the illustrious top 10, when the old Southampton used to sit uncomfortably in the bottom half of the table.
History in the Premier League
Since the league’s inception, Southampton have rarely been inside the top half of the table, with their only real highlight in the noughties coming in 2002, where they finished eighth.
While the Saints always managed to finish tantalisingly above the drop zone, they finally fell through the trap door in 2005, and wouldn’t return to the heights of the Premier League for the best part of a decade.
Despite giving fans a rollercoaster ride down to the depths of League One and back again, the club has achieved two of their best ever finishes in recent years, attracting a wealth of international talent to the English south coast.
The manager: In comes Koeman
When Mauricio Pochettino trotted off to Tottenham after leading Southampton to a couple of tidy finishes in the league, in came a manager with an even fiercer reputation – Ronald Koeman.
After wowing stadium crowds through the eighties and nineties as a player with Barcelona, as well as in his native Netherlands, Koeman made the switch to management just as soon as his playing days were up.
Winning the Eredivisie three times with Ajax and PSV, as well as taking home the Copa del Rey with Valencia, was more than enough to justify his appointment as Saints boss.
The aim of finishing inside the top 10 once again is always on the agenda, while the Dutch legend will also want to push on from this solid foundation.
Matt Le Tissier, James Beattie, Alan Shearer: three England internationals that once plied their trade in the red and white stripes of Southampton.
With Shearer leaving for Blackburn, the great Le Tissier finally succumbing to retirement, and Beattie jogging off up north to Everton, the Saints struggled to fill such voids for many years. But now, there’s a new roster of emerging talent gracing the turf at St. Mary’s every week.
Something of a late bloomer, Pellè sprang to life in 2012, in his late twenties, banging in countless finishes for Feyenoord before making the short trip down the English Channel.
Now a permanent feature for club and country, the Italian striker is still hungry for headline-grabbing goals, despite being the wrong side of 30.
Standing at a fear-inducing 6’7, Forster looks like he could almost stretch his arms out and touch both posts at the same time.
After making a name for himself as a shot-stopper up in Scotland with Celtic, the keeper’s reputation has only gone on to grow during his time at St. Mary’s, even earning himself an international call-up.
A team once grounded to the bottom half of England’s top division, Southampton’s present is looking slightly rosier than its past. With a team featuring a blend of international talent and eager youngsters, Koeman could well lead the Saints to a cup win before he calls time on his career in England.