Writer: Henry Woodsford
Date:Tuesday December 17 2013
In May 2005, Southampton F.C were relegated from the Premier League for the first time in 27 years. In April 2009 they were then relegated from the Championship and began the 2009-10 season in the third tier of English football after receiving a 10-point deduction.
Fast forward to 2013 and those dark days seem long gone, with the Saints back in the Premier League and comfortably placed 9th in the table with draws against Manchester United & City, as well as a win against Liverpool at Anfield ensuring the South Coast side`s best ever start to a top-flight season.
But it wasn`t all plain sailing to reach these heights.
In 2009, the Saints narrowly missed out on a play-off place by seven points under manager Alan Pardew. Despite the near miss, there were some positives for Pardew to take on board in the club`s first season in the third-tier for over 50 years. New £1 million pound striker Rickie Lambert managed to score 35 goals. Also outstanding was Adam Lallana, a central-midfielder who had graduated to the Saints first team via their renowned academy system, he finished the season with an impressive tally of 20 goals.
However, Pardew was sacked in August 2010 and replaced by former Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins in September. Adkins proved to be the catalyst that would spark Southampton to back-to-back promotions. He already inherited a strong squad; alongside the impressive duo of Lambert and Lallana, centre-half Jose Fonte and young midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also impressed and cemented their places in the side.
The Saints ended the season being promoted back to the Championship, finishing second in the table.
In their first season back in the second tier they managed to gain another promotion, this time back up to the Premier League for the first time in seven years.
After a stop-start first six months back in the Premier League, Adkins was sacked in January 2012 and replaced by the relatively unknown Mauricio Pochettino to a wave of controversy, with many fans and pundits questioning chairman Nicola Cortese`s decision to sack Adkins after the success he achieved at the club.
Southampton managed to secure their safety in the Premier League, and at the start of Pochettino`s first full season in charge, the Saints have achieved their best start to a top-flight season.
The Argentinian came to St. Mary`s with the aim of installing a high-pressing style of football, and this has become much more refined as the the 2013-14 season has progressed.
Pochettino`s squad seems to be a perfect mix of youth and international players; Lambert, Lallana and Schneiderlin have been almost ever present during the club`s rise back in the top-flight alongside more youth team players; left-back Luke Shaw received high praise for his performances last season which resulted in call-ups to the England Under-21 squad.
This season, Shaw, alongside fellow full-back Calum Chambers and midfielder James Ward-Prowse have been tipped to have promising careers after coming through Southampton`s youth system. The performances of Lambert and Lallana, alongside Jay Rodriguez resulted in the trio receiving call ups to the England national team in November, highlighting the great work achieved at Southampton in recent years.
Pochettino has managed, so far successfully, to integrate these youth team players with big money foreign signings; Italian striker Pablo Osvaldo joined the Saints for £15 million from Roma, breaking the club`s record transfer fee. Defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama and Croatian centre-half Dejan Lovren were also signed for a combined fee of £20 million, with both players easily settling in to the English game; Wanyama has performed consistently in midfield alongside Schneiderlin, with the pair proving to be a tough barrier to cross. Lovren has been a stand out performer for the Saints, who have an excellent defensive record so far this season, forming a strong partnership with the long-serving Fonte at the heart of the defence.
All the players involved have got on board with Pochettino`s ideas, a huge amount of work has been done to enhance the squad`s fitness levels to complement the high-pressing footballing model.
With a number of players tipped for bright careers in the game, and the club looking odds on to secure a top half Premier League finish, the future looks promising at St. Mary`s.
Even the most optimistic of Southampton fans could not have predicted such a drastic turn around in their fortunes when they began life in League One four seasons ago.
Original publication - henrywoodsford.tumblr.com.
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Date:Tuesday December 17 2013
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