Terry Paine MBE says many players came to the fore at the right time over the course of the season to help Southampton achieve a record Premier League standing.
Earlier this month Paine picked Ryan Bertrand as his President’s Choice at the 2016 Player Awards, but believes any number of Saints stars could have been chosen for that accolade as he reviewed a successful campaign.
“There are various times throughout the season where certain players have come to the party,” he highlighted.
“Certainly, Virgil van Dijk has been outstanding at the back, but I think it’s the combination of the two – him and [José] Fonte – that’s the strength there.
“The goalkeeper coming back was another plus. That’s taking nothing away from the other goalkeepers who came in and performed, but obviously you’ve got a fully-blown international and you know what his presence means to the team. When he came back we went on that good run of clean sheets as well.”
Saints saw three players contribute double figures of top-flight goals in the league for the first time in over 30 years, and Paine was equally delighted with the attacking threat at Ronald Koeman’s disposal.
“I think [Shane] Long up front has been a revelation this season – I think his pace has disturbed back fours – and I’ve got to throw in [Sadio] Mané as well,” said Paine. “It’s only his second season, and being a young player coming from Austria it needed time for him to adapt to the Premier League and I think he’s done that extremely well.
"He showed up at the right time for the club, around the turn of the year. If you look at Southampton’s form, we were second out of all the teams if the league had started at the beginning of the new year.
“I think Mané and Long are a combination that frightens team to death with their pace. That has been shown on a number of occasions, but when you play a side like Tottenham, where they’ve got the best defence, and you could see the fear factor was there every time the ball was played forward.
“They really caused them problems and that was a big plus. I think [Dušan] Tadić here and there shows that he can produce a pass at the right time, with a lovely left foot. When you look at it, Victor Wanyama, I think when he was missing those five games, it really showed how we missed his physical presence, so when you look at all those factors it seemed to be a turning point.”