Club legend Francis Benali believes Southampton will continue to grow and build on their success after another record breaking season for the team.
Benali has been an impressed spectator of events both on and off the pitch at St Mary’s in recent times, and says the club is geared for further improvement after establishing a record high Premier League position and points tally.
The 2015/16 season was the seventh year in a row that Saints have improved their league position and Benali feels that says a lot about the club which lost key players in each of the previous campaigns.
“Even with the departures that we experienced for a second summer running there was still optimism around there and, OK, we didn’t start as well as we did in Ronald [Koeman]’s first season, but it’s a tremendous achievement by everybody at the club,” he told saintsfc.co.uk
“I know a lot is made of them but it’s not just about the playing staff, management and coaches but everyone behind the scenes and off the pitch too. There’s seems to be a real mentality now that everyone is in there together and on the same page, aiming for the same goals and that seems very evident.
“To finish sixth in the Premier League is an unbelievable achievement, and to qualify again this time through the group stages of the Europa League is a justified reward for all the efforts that everyone is putting in.”
Saints will break new ground by going straight into the group stages of next season’s Europa League, and Benali believes that a change in attitude towards the club from the outside will emerge.
“You look at the squad and even everything about the club now,” he explained. “You’ve got the training ground set-up and the squad that we’re assembling, and the backing of Katharina [Liebherr] and her family, Ralph [Krueger] and the senior directors, right through the club there’s a real sense of wanting to achieve and wanting to be successful.
“Southampton is no longer that small little club now in a lot of people’s eyes I don’t think. You talk to people now about Southampton and they’re serious contenders and not taken quite as lightly as we may have been in the past.”
And Benali feels that the belief can continue to grow from within by making another successful campaign next season.
“European football is something that the club has very much had an eye on and as a goal to achieve and, it’s improving on last season again, which was an incredible season in itself,” he said.
“We’ve finished higher in the table, we’ve reached the group stages rather than the qualifying rounds of the Europa League so we’re seeing progress season upon season. There will come a point where that might be difficult to beat again, but the drive and ambition and the work ethic is all there to try and keep climbing, keep improving.
“We’ve seen it with Leicester this season as one massive achievement which we can all aspire to and realise that it is actually possible. You only have to take a look at Leicester so why not dream for the stars and, as we’ve seen with both Leicester and Southampton, in achieving this year – anything is possible.”