Francis Benali feels that the mentality at Southampton is a much changed one from the teams he played in for the club.
Benali represented Saints in the top-flight for over 15 years and helped the club establish itself as a Premier League side, but says that the difference in belief in the team now is a major factor in the recent successes.
One of the telling aspects is how well prepared the team is in matches both at St Mary’s and away from home which Benali has enjoyed watching.
“I think going back to every Saints side over the years home form has always been a key thing as it’s an important thing to give the team a good chance of success,” he said.
“Even in my time playing at home, it was always a key thing and we probably weren’t as successful on the road, but what we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons, and most notably this season, is going to places like Old Trafford and clubs like Chelsea, any team now, this current Southampton side will go to any stadium against any club and expect to win a game of football, and that’s not always been the case.
“In the past, going to Old Trafford you’d be going there perhaps hoping to get a draw at best,” he added.
“Now the quality of the squad and the momentum of the club and the confidence in the players is that in any game of football they honestly believe they can win, and I think that’s a shift in mentality and the ability of the players in the squad.
“It’s great for me as a supporter knowing that any fixture which crops up at any stage of the season, we’re always going to have a chance of getting a result. There was some huge results, although it was a little bit disappointing that for the second season running we had that little bit of a dip around December, so that’s something to maybe sort of think how we can improve for the coming season, but on the whole, it’s been a fantastic season.
“The highlights of the season started with Europa League football which to have right from day one was an incredible experience and journey, and then going into the Premier League campaign you have highlights like the 4-0 win against Arsenal and numerous other results along the way which you could stand out in terms of performances and goals. “
All of which makes Benali satisfied with how far the club has come from his own time representing Saints as there have been many contributions from across the team.
“That’s what’s in the team as well now,” he highlighted. “In the past now we may have relied on a Matt Le Tissier to get the bulk of our goals, now we’ve got a squad that has goals coming from anywhere really and the goals have been shared out by a large number of the players which is better for any team.
“I was part of a group that wanted to achieve things and wanted to be successful in my playing time, but we were probably restricted by playing at somewhere like The Dell with a 15,000 capacity, and we knew that a move to a new stadium was crucial to the time and trying to maintain the Premier League status at the time was key to try and achieve that.
“It’s nice to have played a small part in the history of the club, and to see where they are now makes me as a supporter beyond proud. When people do speak to you or ask you for an interview and talk about Southampton I can do that with great pride, knowing what’s been achieved and what’s being worked towards as we stand here today.”