Monday, 6 August 2012
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins says his players will not be intimidated by the Premier League and is confident they can avoid relegation. But is this wild pre-season optimism or foolish naivety?
A couple of years ago, the three teams who were promoted to the Barclays Premier League were virtual certainties to go straight back down as smaller clubs struggled to keep up with the big boys when the going got tough.
But that pattern appears to be changing so Adkins has every right to believe his Saints side can handle it in the Premier League this term.
Swansea and Norwich are great examples for the south coast club to follow, with both tipped to go straight back down in 2011-12. Yet they managed to secure top 12 finishes and were comfortable throughout the season among so-called better company. QPR, too, were able to keep their top-flight status in their first campaign back in the big time, albeit by the skin of their teeth on the final day.
So looking at the recent promoted teams, there is plenty of evidence to suggest Saints can add their name to the growing list of clubs capable of coming up and staying up.
Adkins' side, like Norwich before them, have won back-to-back promotions, adapting to life in the Championship superbly after coming up from League One and will have ambitions to do exactly the same in 2012-13, despite the obvious step-up in class.
The likeable, hard-working coach appears to have engendered a great team spirit at St Mary's and says that the togetherness in his squad should not be underestimated.
This was also something that Paul Lambert at Norwich and Brendan Rodgers at Swansea cultivated very successfully before they both left for bigger and better things earlier in the summer.
Southampton might not be returning to the top flight with big stars, although much is expected of the experienced, talented Rickie Lambert as he gets a long-awaited crack at the big-time but they have an astute manager and a spirit to be feared.
So even though the latest odds puts them among the favourites to go down, don't be surprised to see Saints safely in mid-table come next May.