by LIAM RICHNER
It has been nothing but progress for Southampton football club since their promotion from League One back in 2011. Yesterday’s famous victory over Inter Milan at St.Mary’s continues the recent uprise in the club’s stature, with the dark days of administration now long in the distance.
Back-to-back promotions under Nigel Adkins was the beginning of this fairytale story. At that time no one would have expected them to be where they are today, but here we are.
Think back to January 2013, and you’d remember fans and pundits alike slamming the sacking of Adkins. However, his replacement Mauricio Pochettino didn’t do too badly in his 18 months in charge.
The Argentine manager kept Southampton in the top flight, before guiding the club to its highest ever Premier League finish at the time (eighth).
He also helped develop a core of home grown talent during his tenure, including Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw.
Following in Pochettino’s footsteps was Ronald Koeman, who continued on his trends. The Dutchman had a debut season to remember in charge of the Saints. After finding themsleves around the top four spots for the first half of the campaign, Southampton ended 2014/15 in seventh place in the Premier League.
A year later, Koeman took the club a step further. A sixth placed finish, their highest to date, a record points total in the English top flight, and qualification for this year’s Europa League.
And so to present day six months on. Claude Puel is the latest man in the Southampton dugout following Koeman’s move to Everton, but the home fans must have been still been pinching themselves as Inter Milan’s players took to the pitch to warm up this evening.
The Italian giants have contrasted to the Saints rise of recent times. In fact, they won Serie ‘A’, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League back in 2010.
Six years and nine managers later, Inter are 12th in the Italian top flight, and sacked Frank de Boer earlier this week after their lacklustre start both domestically and in Europe.
When the two sides met at the San Siro two weeks ago, you’d been forgiven if you thought Southampton had more European pedigree for their valiant display.
An Antonio Candreva strike gifted Inter a 1-0 victory that evening, so home fans sensed vengeance this evening at St.Mary’s.
Mauro Icardi gave the Nerazzurri the lead on the South Coast with a tap in from six yards, before Dusan Tadic missed a penalty for the home side on the stroke of half-time.
The second half saw Southampton come out all guns blazing, and it was central defender Virgil Van Dijk who equalised after he reacted quickest to Oriol Romeu’s looping effort which came back off the crossbar.
Yuto Nagatomo will want to avoid TV replays of his own goal which gave Saints the memorable victory.
The win means that dreams of reaching the last-32 is still on for Southampton as their European journey looks set to continue.
The question is: With no sign of their continuous rise stopping, can fans begin to dream of Champions League football?
If they keep on the path they are on and at the same pace, then heck, why not?
After Leicester City’s Premier League triumph last season, anything is possible!