Francis Benali felt that Southampton’s end to the season has whetted the appetite for more after an impressive finish to the 2015/16 campaign.
Saints lost just one of their last ten matches – winning five of the last six – to achieve a league position of sixth and a points tally of 63 which is the best that the club has achieved in the Premier League era, putting the club into a top eight finish for the third consecutive season.
And Benali says another summer of progression can continue that momentum into the 2016/17 campaign.
“It’s been a group effort by every single member of the club,” he told saintsfc.co.uk
“Naturally the main focus is on the players and the management, but for any football club to be successful, it needs a huge amount of effort from everybody doing their bit on and off the pitch.
“I get that sense every time I arrive at St Mary’s or visit the training ground, there’s real amount of pride in what everybody does, and their ambition as well to really kick on and be a force in the Premier League.
“I didn’t want the season to end in many ways, although you have to a break. There’s belief in the club and it’s a little bit like a match, you don’t want that time to come as you’re playing that well and you’re doing great and you don’t want to lose that momentum, but a season has got to come to an end where you need to recharge the batteries. I’m sure behind the scenes there’ll be a huge amount of work going on.”
The performances on the pitch have impressed Benali too, and he’s delighted that so many of the club’s stars have performed this season and that many of them have pledged their future to Saints.
“It is everybody playing their part right from the goalkeeper, and Fraser Forster, his form when he came back from injury was incredible and it’s not just him, I know that, but we’ve got a class of player at the club now that is great to have and there’s competition for places in the squad which is a healthy thing.
“We’ve seen players committing their long term futures with Fraser, Virgil [Van Dijk] and James Ward-Prowse amongst others, so it’s all looking good for the future.
“There’s internationals and a number of them, which is great. In the past you may have one or possibly two players on international duty, there’s now a large number of players in that squad now who will be involved in one shape or form through the summer and that just goes to show the strides that the club has made and the level of ability within the squad now.”
And coupled with the club’s development in recent years, Benali hopes that progress will continue.
“It has been a steady progress given where were in administration and relegations, playing League 1 football, it’s an incredible achievement and quite a story in itself really,” he outlined.
“There’s probably not any club or very few if there is one that’s done what we’ve achieved to start punching at the top of the Premier League in such a short space of time given where we came from.
“I know when pre-season comes around there’ll be a lot of expectations and optimism for the season ahead which is a good and a bad thing, but I’ve got a belief in the football club that everyone there is able to rise to that challenge.”