Having been part of the team the last time the Saints played in Europe, Kevin Phillips says everyone in the squad will be full of excitement and anticipation in the build-up to facing Vitesse.
Phillips featured in both games against Romanian side Steaua Bucharest back in 2003, scoring in the first-leg draw at St Mary’s.
Saints would ultimately exit the competition at the first round stage after a 1-0 defeat in Romania, but Phillips fondly remembers the buzz created leading up to the two legs.
“There was a lot more media attention leading up to the match and there were a lot of players on that night who had never experienced European football before,” Phillips told SAINTS, the club’s official matchday magazine.
“We’d all watched a lot of it on TV, so there was a lot of anticipation around the games and what it was going to be like to play against these foreign players.
“I think it was generally just excitement. I can certainly remember that Gordon Strachan was excited about the game and we felt confident going into the two legs.
“It wasn’t to be at the end of it, but I think it was a good test for a lot of people. It was just excitement and anticipation as to what lay ahead and I expect that’ll be the same for this group.”
The striker, now working with Leicester City, believes Saints have come a long way since their last appearance in Europe and feels that, unlike 12 years ago, the club is capable of having a prolonged stay in the competition.
“I think the team has come on an awful lot from when I look back on the one I played in,” Phillips added. “I played alongside James Beattie and we had some good players at that time.
“But I think the team and the club has gone up several notches and it’s quite remarkable when you think of the players who have left the club in the last two or three seasons.
“They keep replacing players and using players from the academy who are just as good, if not better. I can certainly see Southampton having a real run in European football and I’ll be one who will certainly be watching them.”
A full interview with the former Saints striker can be found in Thursday night’s matchday magazine. Supporters attending the game will receive their issue free! Find out more.