The Saints have endured some pretty tough times since being relegated from the top flight back in 2005 – there have been brushes with administration, points deductions, coupled with a second relegation in 2009 to League One. In that time, various managers have come and gone but after a seven year absence, Southampton have arrived back in the Premier League under Nigel Adkins. Much like Norwich before them, Adkins has led the Saints to back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League.
Despite never having coached or played for a top flight team, Adkins, a former physio, has achieved four promotions in his last six seasons as a manager. At Southampton, he has enjoyed a win ratio of 61%. Last season, the Saints never dropped out of the automatic promotion places (1st and 2nd) during the entire season. They were the highest scorers in the Championship with 85 goals – 27 of which came from hitman, Rickie Lambert who should take the Premier League by storm. Lambert has manged 78 goals in 129 league appearances for Southampton since joining – their next highest scorer last season was Adam Lallana with 10.
Many exciting young players have emerged from Southampton’s academy recently, namely Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Olxade-Chamberlain, but the latest prospect to emerge is Luke Shaw who has been linked with a host of top teams. Adkins, who looks to play an exciting brand of attacking football, has many young players in his ranks: Jack Cork (23), Adam Lallana (24), Morgan Schneiderlin (22) and this summer’s signings Jay Rodriguez (23), Nathaniel Clyne (21) and Paulo Gazzaniga (20). Steven Davis has also arrived from Rangers. While much of Southampton’s squad has a distinct lack of experience in terms of the top flight, that won’t phase Nigel Adkins, who demands a certain level of commitment from his players.
Norwich, Swansea and QPR all survived last season and from the current crop of promoted teams – Southampton after back-to-back promotions could well surprise a lot of people this season. The magic 40-point barrier will be in their minds from the off and anything after that will be a bonus. The Saints should achieve safety, but they will endure a baptism of fire in their opening five games, facing three of the teams that finished in first, second and third last season.
Opening five fixtures: Manchester City (A), Wigan (A), Manchester United (H), Arsenal (A) and Aston Villa (H)