Former Southampton managers Nigel Adkins and Lawrie McMenemy have heaped praise on Ronald Koeman for guiding the club to the brink of European qualification.
Southampton, along with Liverpool and Tottenham, are one of three clubs fighting for two guaranteed UEFA Europa League berths in the final round of Premier League fixtures on Sunday, with Koeman’s side set to travel to Manchester City.
And Adkins, who guided Southampton from the third tier to the top flight during his stint in charge from 2010 to 2013, says continental football would be just reward for a season that has exceeded all expectations.
“I joined Southampton a few years ago when we were down at the bottom of League One and the dream then was ‘can we get to Europe?’,” Adkins told Perform as he and McMenemy were named ambassadors for the Football Foundation, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
“To see the club on the verge of that now is fantastic for Southampton.
“Ronald’s done a great job. He lost some high-calibre players, but they’ve continued to go from strength to strength.”
McMenemy, who managed Southampton from 1973 to 1985, added: “At the beginning of the season, like everyone else, I assumed the door’s open.
“Half the outfield players went, the manager [Mauricio Pochettino] went and there were changes in the boardroom and I think everybody expected problems during the season. Fourth-bottom would have been success in some people’s minds.
“The most important appointment was the manager Ronald Koeman – great experience, great stature.
“That appointment changed everything for a more positive angle. There was money – that was the one plus about players leaving. He used the money wisely.
“The players he brought in, with due respect, were unknown to the man on the terrace, so that added to the excitement of it all. But he knew them.
“The supporters will be able to celebrate what’s been an excellent season.”
Since its launch in 2000, the Football Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and the government through Sport England, has supported 13,000 grassroots sport projects with grants worth £520m and leveraged £736m in additional partnership funding, thereby delivering schemes with a total project cost of £1.24bn.