Wherever Southampton ends up next season — automatic promotion, a playoff berth, mid-table, a relegation scrap (seems unlikely…but you never know in the Championship), one thing is for certain. The Saints are fun again.
It is a hard thing to turn around a culture. And Southampton needed one hell of a turn. 3 years ago on November 6th, 2020, the Saints went top of the Premier League. Ché Adams and Stuart Armstrong scored in a 2-0 victory over pre-takeover Newcastle.
Their Premier League record since that day: 22 wins, 26 draws, and a whopping 58 losses. 15th, 15th, 20th, and relegated. Slowly but surely, the fans started to reflect the doldrums surrounding the club. The boo birds started to become a staple at St. Mary’s, and losing was the expectation.
There is a lot of work ahead in the future for Southampton
This is why what Russell Martin and the Southampton players have achieved already this season is incredibly impressive. After a fast start, Martin and his men hit 4 losses in a row blip, and the Southampton faithful started to despair.
The old patterns were setting in — lost points from winning positions, individual errors, and ultimately, losing football was being shown on the pitch. Fans were upset, players seemed disinterested. The Saints of yesteryear would’ve continued to crumble.
But not these Saints, and not this manager. Southampton have now ripped off 7 straight games without a loss. And they have done so while also completely reinventing the Southampton ethos. 95th-minute winner vs. Hull City, 96th-minute equalizer vs. Preston, and a 93rd-minute winner against Millwall. Add these to two other stoppage-time goals from earlier in the season and the Saints have an aura about them now, a confidence, a swagger that says we are never out of it.
Too often in seasons past Southampton would enter the final 10-15 minutes of games and retreat into their shell, defend deep, and protect what they had. And more often than not, it resulted in disaster. No one dropped more points from winning positions over the years than Saints. But now, the culture has completely shifted. They dominate the end of games, forcing the opposition back, patiently prompting and probing until they twist the knife at the end.
And this mentality is bringing the fans around. No longer is the reaction to going behind: “aw ****, here we go again”. Now when Saints need a goal and time is winding down, there is only one thing echoing down from the Southampton faithful. OH WHEN THE SAINTS, GO MARCHING IN.
Forget the record, the points tally, the transfers in and out, and the tactical analysis. Forget even the goal of promotion and the jewel of Premier League football. The Saints are massive again. The Saints believe again.
The fans believe again. And it isn’t even a totally new team: Ché Adams and Stuart Armstrong are still here, Jan Bednarek, Adam Armstrong, Gavin Bazunu, Kyle Walker-Peters, and Kamaldeen Sulemana. All these players were on the team that got relegated, the team that lost the fanbase. But now, they’ve done one of the hardest things in sports, winning us back.
No matter where the Saints end up this season — tuning in to a Southampton game is no longer a chore, a masochistic ritual forced upon us on a weekly basis. I want to be in that number again. Long may it continue.