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"The first away game against Manchester City might be a baptism of fire" - a Saints fan offers his views ahead of the new Premier League campaign

SOUTHAMPTON
FAN: Will Cope
Southampton-based commentator

The target: Survival

Realistically survival would be the main objective but knowing the ambition of both the manager and the executive chairman Nicola Cortese, a top half finish might be expected.

My thoughts on the gaffer...

Nigel Adkins has done a fine job with two successive promotions and is certainly going to give it a good go in the Premier League.

Time will tell if he's out of his depth but if he adapts the playing style a little to make them difficult to score against he could do a fine job.

He certainly instills a lot of confidence in the players and is an advocate of the importance of 'the team'.

Our key man this season

Adam Lallana. Could have moved to the Premier League a couple of seasons ago but kept faith with the club that developed his talent and will now be keen to show that he has the ability to perform at the highest stage.

An heir apparent to Matt Le Tissier's throne and has the skills to go onto to higher things.

Youngster to watch

James Ward Prowse. A central midfielder with a game that belies his young years. Already, there are early comparisons to Saints 80s legend Steve Williams, which is high praise indeed.

If he muscles his way into a regular starting berth he could prove to have a big season.

A player who must deliver

Morgan Schneiderlin. Came to Saints with a big reputation as a young French star to watch and although he's been steady for a number of years, he really needs to show he has the ability to cut it amongst the big boys. 

Our Achilles heel

The depth of the squad. Saints are a bit thin on the ground should regular centre-back pairing Jos Hooiveld and Jose Fonte get injured, and there's not top cover for goalkeeper Kelvin Davis.

Fixture I am looking forward to the most...

The first home game of the season. It might 'only' be Wigan but it'll be the first game at St Mary's back in the top flight after an absence of seven years.

Our toughest opponents will be...

First game away at last season's champions, Manchester City. It might be a baptism of fire against a side that only dropped four points at home all last season. (That said Saints did win the last ever game at Maine Road so who knows!)

Player we love to hate

Not a player but perhaps West Ham Utd manager Sam Alladyce for some less than complimentary comments about Saints last season. He was dismissive of a side that was never out of the Championship's automatic promotion places and duly beat the Hammers to second spot.


Rival player from the Premier League you'd have in your team?

For flair and unpredictability Mario Balotelli, but for rock solid dependability it has to be Vincent Kompany.

My first choice XI

K. DAVIS

CLYNE FONTE HOOIVELD
FOX

SCHNEIDERLIN

DO PRADO
S. DAVIS

LALLANA

RODRIGUEZ LAMBERT

My verdict

There's plenty to look forward to after seven years away from the top flight. With a young, hungry manager in place and a greater proportion of British players in the squad compared to many other Premier League teams, there's real excitement on the south coast. Backed by an academy that continues to produce talented youngsters there is a chance to surprise a few teams (particularly at home) this season.

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