Saints boss on his first summer with the club
This week, Ralph Hasenhüttl is home.
But this is no normal trip back to the Southampton manager’s country of birth to get away from it all – instead, his entire squad has followed him to Austria, as he oversees the first training camp of the summer.
Having arrived midway through the 2018/19 season and overseen a thrilling recovery to achieve Premier League safety, Hasenhüttl now has his first proper opportunity to work with his players over an extended period of time and school them in the full extent of his methods.
It is a prospect that excites him.
"It's very important for me to have the group for this whole six weeks, where we can try something new and we can work on the fundamentals, and develop our game in every part,” he said, shortly after overseeing the first of a number of double training sessions during the camp.
“I think we need this time and we have all the facilities here to work hard and to develop our game. It is something of a bonus time you have with the guys, without the pressure of winning games, so you can focus on a lot of things you want to improve with them.
"I'm very excited. The guys came back with good condition, with all the work they have to do in the break, and I think we have a good fundamental level from which to start immediately into the hard sessions. So far, we have done so without any problems and enjoyed it a lot.
“For us, it's important when they are coming back that they are in good shape and then we can immediately work with them and the team. We have 22 fit players here, plus four goalkeepers, and a few young guys are also with us.
“I think the group can slightly change in the next weeks, but in the core is the group that we want to start the season.”
ralph hasenhüttlit's important they get to know again what it's about playing football for southampton.
The trip to Austria will culminate with a game against SCR Altach, and will be followed later in the month by a training camp in Dublin, with a Southampton XI also heading to Macau to play a friendly with Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F.
There will also be away friendly games against Preston and Feyenoord, as well as the home pre-season fixture with 1.FC Köln.
It is a busy summer ahead, so what does Hasenhüttl want to get out of this first week away in particular?
“The work against the ball this week is one of our topics,” he said. “They were two months away the guys and it's important they get to know again what it's about playing football for Southampton.
“So it's about freshening up everything and also preparing for the friendly games that are following in the next weeks. We can use different shapes maybe, or try something new, and that's what we will do in the next weeks.”
Hasenhüttl has already welcomed two new signings this summer, and, although Moussa Djenepo’s Africa Cup of Nations involvement means he has not yet linked up with the group, the Saints boss has been pleased to have Che Adams with him in Austria.
"I think it's important for him to be immediately part of the group,” he said.
“I think he enjoys so far what we do with him and he shows that he is a very robust and good team player.
“I think it's important he gets to know as soon as possible what it's about to play in the forward position in this team. He is open-minded, he wants to learn very quick, and that is exactly what we need.”
Quick learning is also something Hasenhüttl hopes to see from the Academy products he has brought with him.
Youngsters Christoph Klarer, Jake Vokins, Will Smallbone and Dan N’Lundulu have all been included in the trip, alongside some of those who have already gone on to earn first-team recognition.
It is a great opportunity, and one Hasenhüttl is delighted to offer, but it is also one he wants to see them make the most of.
"We have spoken very often about our way – The Southampton Way – that we want to give them a chance to be part of the team,” said the Saints boss.
“It's not about only being a part of it, it's about when you get the chance to train here then you have to show up.
ralph hasenhüttlthe academy players have to know that to get an invitation to work with us is nice, but it's only the first step.
on youngsters taking their opportunity
“I think they have shown they are really ambitious, and that's the most important thing for me, that they are working hard, they are listening and, you never know, suddenly you can get the chance to play.
“The important thing is they get a chance to show up and that's what I want to give them.”
Hasenhüttl continued: "The Academy players have to know that to get an invitation to work with us is nice, but it's only the first step.
“The next steps have to follow, because it's not enough to be here once. If you're here once, then you must show that you are really professional, that you do maybe more than is necessary to stay here, because otherwise you don't get so many chances to show up, and if you are here then you must do it.”
After all, the goal of this week and the rest of pre-season is to prepare as best as possible for the Premier League campaign that lies ahead.
"We have to know in the Premier League it's not possible to start in an easy way,” said Hasenhüttl.
“We have immediately very, very hard games to face, very strong opponents to face, and when we start the league we must be on the highest level possible, so we have to use the six weeks to get as best as possible, so that we can immediately take points in the season.
“The earlier we take points, the less pressure you have during the season.
“It's a long season, we know this, but we don't want to come another time in this situation where we are struggling or getting a lot of pressure because we are in, or near, the relegation zone.
“The first four games, we have two at home against big teams, and away they are also not easy games, so it is a tough schedule.
“But if you look at the schedule you never know. Every game you can take something, but every game you can lose.
“It's about getting convinced about our strengths, about our automatism and our habits, and if we do that then we know we can be a nasty opponent for every team.”