Well, that’s the cherry on top of the cake for Saints – Europa League qualification secured at the end of a remarkable season.
Firstly, thanks to Arsenal for their scintillating FA Cup win over Aston Villa this past weekend, a result that enabled Saints to secure that European qualification via our seventh-placed Premier League finish.
I’ve no doubts that the Gunners were spurred on by the fact that they had several hundreds of thousands of Saints fans supporting them against Villa – “Gunner for a day” ultimately proving very successful for all concerned on the south coast!
Secondly, congratulations to all of us concerned with Southampton Football Club.
After the pre-season predictions of ‘meltdowns’ and ‘relegation certainties’ it’s been one of the most successful and enjoyable seasons in our entire history.
Whilst lots of clubs and fans pour cold water on the Europa League, and what it can mean to clubs trying to compete in the Premier League week in, week out, you’ll hardly find one Saints fan who thinks that way.
Five years ago we were playing in League One against the likes of Carlisle and Rochdale. Believe me when I say, having been in that position, beggars can’t be choosers! European football then was a distant, and almost ridiculous, dream.
Ronald Koeman has already used the word “proud” in relation to our qualification for Europe. I’d echo those sentiments entirely.
Our evolution since 2009 has been nothing short of phenomenal, Roy of the Rovers stuff.
I’m proud that people like Koeman see the Europa League as a positive and not, like many managers in the Premier League, more of a booby prize.
Whilst not the most lucrative or glamourous of tournaments, certainly compared to its bigger Champions League brother, it’s a chance for Saints to hopefully increase their brand and reputation across European football and, maybe more importantly, attract a different class of player to the club this summer.
On the flip side I hope it may now convince the likes of Nathaniel Clyne to remain at the club as well.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool have been linked with signing Clyne this summer, but with them having won as much as ourselves in the last three years, and now playing in all of the same competitions as us next season, is it really a move that would benefit him anymore than staying at Saints?
Saints are a club on the up and, whilst other clubs assume that buying all of our players will help them to quick success, one thing is for sure – they can try and buy our players, but they certainly can’t buy the spirit that Southampton Football Club has!
The entire board, Katharina Liebherr, Les Reed, Ralph Krueger and Gareth Rogers deserve immense credit for building that spirit over the last five years and more importantly getting the manager, backroom staff, employees, players and fans to believe in it.
We now seem to be on the crest of a wave and, despite all we’ve been through in the last 12 months, now is the time to be ruthless in trying to keep our existing players and also in trying to sign the quality to make our small squad competitive on all accounts next year.
I’m not saying we should go gung-ho financially, as we all learned a valuable lesson in 2009, but should certainly try to compete in signing the best talent we can.
Whatever happens over the summer one thing is for sure, our club will continue to create and achieve success next season in our own way – the Southampton Way!
Have a great summer – I know mine is ‘Gunner’ be a fantastic one now!