Just one friendly separates Southampton from their opening fixture of the new Premier League season and assistant coaches Eddie Niedzwiecki and Mark Bowen have praised the mentality and application of the squad.
Speaking from Évian, the duo had nothing but praise for the squad and indeed the club’s efforts over a busy but smooth summer schedule that has taken in four new signings and three weeks of training camps in China and France.
Saints’ Welsh managerial and coaching team hit the ground running at the back end of last season and have witnessed the same application and mentality carried forward from their players this time around on the training pitches of Èvian and Kunshan.
“It’s a cliché but it’s pre-season time and the players understand that we’ve got to put a body of work in that will allow them to cope with the demands of the Premier League,” Bowen began.
“Their mentality has been superb as it was in China before here. When you’ve got a group of lads who are focussed that way and know why we’re out here and the reasons for it, that’s the key thing.
“In everything that we try to put on, and the boss tries to get into people, if you haven’t got good characters in your dressing room and a good mentality in the group then it makes everything harder.
“Certainly what we’ve found since we walked through the door is that we’ve got a bunch of focused lads who are ready to work hard and hopefully get the rewards at the end of it.”
Key to those pre-season plans has been a solid foundation off the field and for Niedzwiecki, the standard has matched the one that he has seen on it on behalf of the playing squad.
“It’s always important you get your structure of work in early but that you get your beliefs across early as well.
“It’s important the players have a sound base to take into the season and they are fit and available for this time of year otherwise you’re playing catch up."
EDDIE NIEDZWIECKIWE ENJOY WORKING TOGETHER AND COLLECTIVELY WE BELIEVE WE ARE DOING THINGS THE RIGHT WAY.
“The facilities we had in Évian were first class and we’ve been able to get a really good body of work in.
“We feel we’ve got a real head of steam up now and we’re into the heat of the battle and getting closer to the start of the season.”
It is a sentiment wholeheartedly echoed by his coaching colleague.
“When you’ve got the people behind the scenes like Les Reed and Ross Wilson they know what’s required and it takes away the surprises with people doing the logistics who are fantastic at what they do,” Bowen added.
“All the club wants to give Mark, myself, Eddie and the players is the right platform to go and produce the goods at the weekend.
“That’s where experience comes in and we’ve certainly got an abundance of in the club from the manager to the coaching staff and those planning it all for us."
The strength of the bond between Mark Hughes, Bowen and Niedzwiecki is clear after 18 years together from the Welsh national setup to the Premier League, only aided by Hughes’s prior affinity with Saints from his playing career.
“We know each other so well,” the latter continued. “We enjoy working together and collectively we believe that we are doing things in the right way. The club has given us that structure to take those principles forward.
“It helped that Mark knew what a great club Southampton was before we started from his time as a player. From the moment we arrived, the supporters have been brilliant with us, backed us and backed the team and it helped carry us through.
“Hopefully that experience will stand us in good stead for next season because we don’t want to be in that position again.”
Whatever happens, the trio are striving to create an environment where responsibility is shouldered by every member of the squad and nothing is left to chance.
“We’ve been together as a team for 18 years now and we have a simple philosophy to create a no-excuse environment,” Bowen concluded.
“If something goes wrong you want your group to look at itself and find the solutions there instead of looking elsewhere.
“To do that, you’ve got to make sure every box is ticked from preparations in training to nutrition and logistics to negate those opportunities.
“Ever since we walked in here, we’ve found a group of lads that are focused on working hard and hopefully we will get the rewards at the end of it.”