Hasenhüttl: I know what this would mean to the fans


If Ralph Hasenhüttl had any uncertainty about how much it would mean to the Southampton supporters to see their team reach the FA Cup final this season, he has only needed to take a quick trip to the shops in order to make it crystal clear.

Saints will take on Leicester City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening in the second of the competition's semi-finals, with the winner advancing to face either Chelsea or Manchester City for the trophy.

Should Hasenhüttl and his side prevail, it would mark a first appearance in the final for the club since 2003 and provide an opportunity to win the cup for only the second time in its history, 45 years on from the previous triumph.

And the Saints boss knows exactly how much this matters to the fans.

"Sure you hear it," he said. "I mean, we are now allowed to walk around and go in the city, and the shops are open and you can be sure that people are coming to you and telling you how important it is for them to win this cup.

"You can feel and you can see why it is important for us, because it's the easiest way for us to win a trophy and this chance we have to take, and to show them how much we are driven like we have shown in the past rounds."

Hasenhüttl, whose side beat Shrewsbury, holders Arsenal, Wolves and Bournemouth in their run to the semi-finals, added: "It's a fantastic chance for us, being part of this competition in April, on the weekend playing in the last four teams with Chelsea, Man City and Leicester for a big final. Fighting for this final is for our players, for us and everybody in the club, a big chance and a big achievement.

"Personally, sure, it is also a very big moment for me. I haven't had so many cup semi-finals so far in my entire managerial career, so it is a big moment.

"We know that we can write history for this club, we know that it is something we are working hard for. We beat the cup holders, we went through four rounds to come here and now we are two wins from winning a big trophy, so this is definitely something we were focusing on in the second half of the season, and that's the reason why we go with all the self-confidence we can build up in this game."

Preparations for the game have been largely similar to any other for Hasenhüttl and his squad, but they have not been ignoring the possibility of extra time and penalties this weekend.

"The sessions are not much different, maybe a little bit," he said. "We have more opportunities with substitutes, and the penalty shooting can also be a factor in this game, so we must prepare for everything."

Saints will head to Wembley with some players who are familiar with such occasions, with the likes of Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand, James Ward-Prowse, Jan Bednarek, Nathan Redmond, Jack Stephens and Alex McCarthy having featured in one or both of the 2017 EFL Cup final and the 2018 FA Cup semi-final.

But, while not unwelcome, Hasenhüttl does not think that experience will be a key factor.

"I think it's a little bit different, because we don't have that many supporters inside the stadium, that's a big thing," he said.

"To play there is something special, definitely. It's important we don't put only experience on the pitch, but also effort and a good game plan, because this helps you more than experience to win a game.

"If experience combined with a lot of good work on the pitch leads us to a good game then it's welcome, but experience alone doesn't help you winning games."