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Southampton almost gatecrashed the Champions League despite losing their manager and best players

It was the season that put Ronald Koeman on the map.

The Premier League has been no stranger to an underdog story in recent seasons.

Leicester City provided the ultimate shock by marching all the way to title glory in 2015/16. They even did it with Wes Morgan and Robert Huth at the back.


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These two have Premier League winners medals and you don’t

AFP - Getty
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These two have Premier League winners medals and you don’t

Southampton almost produced a miracle of their own the season before the Foxes’ triumph, threatening to gatecrash the top four.

A lucrative Champions Leagues spot was well within reach for the Saints, before their lack of squad depth eventually proved fatal towards the tail-end of the season.

A far-cry from their current status of perennial-relegation flirts, it was once a totally different story for Southampton.

Feel like pure sh*t, just want the old Southampton back

Getty Images - Getty
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Feel like pure sh*t, just want the old Southampton back

Let us to take you back to 2014. A time when Kylian Mbappe was yet to make his debut and Jose Mourinho was still ‘the happy one.’

A monumental firesale had just taken place on the South Coast.

Southampton saw their manager, captain, star striker and best defender all lured away throughout the summer. CC: Liverpool.

Mauricio Pochettino had just been poached by Spurs and as such, the Saints were one of the bookies favourites to face the chop.

Model behaviour

Darren Fletcher - The Sun
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Model behaviour

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The core of a decent side that finished eighth the season before, had been ripped apart and it looked like a case of damage limitation for the incoming Koeman.

With the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert all departing the club, the former Ajax manager made some astute reinforcements to the plug the gaps.

Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle stole the headlines, with the likes of Sadio Mane and Toby Alderweireld going under the radar. It’s a funny old game.

£10million for this guy? Yes please

Getty Images - Getty
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£10million for this guy? Yes please

The core of the squad that started the season had very little Premier League experience to speak of.

A bedding in period was inevitable, with Southampton labouring to one defeat and a draw in their opening two games of the campaign.

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After blowing away the early season cobwebs, the Saints went on a remarkable run, losing just one of their next nine games and winning eight.

Amongst the early season conquests was an outrageous 8-0 victory over Sunderland, as the Saints ran riot and made everyone take notice.

Players such as Victor Wanyama and Ryan Bertrand were emerging as key men, with Pelle scoring the goals to ease the earlier relegation fears.

One of the only men you would back against Marouane Fellaini

Getty Images - Getty
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One of the only men you would back against Marouane Fellaini

There were whispers of the Saints being good enough to sneak into Europe off the back of their early season form. A torrid Christmas period however saw them lose ground.

After four defeats on the spin, Koeman’s side emerged with a new-found spirit, and took some notable scalps during a spell of six games without defeat.

What looked a nightmare run of fixtures on paper, pitting them up against Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United consecutively, Southampton rallied and found a second wind.

The Gunners were put to the sword

Action Images - Reuters
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The Gunners were put to the sword

A hard-fought draw against Mourinho’s eventual title winning side, was followed up by a 2-0 victory against Arsenal, before they went onto silence Old Trafford.

Tadic bagged the only goal in a smash-and-grab job against Man United, a result that heaped the pressure on Koeman’s countryman Louis van Gaal.

We can all take our shirt off, mate

PA:Press Association
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We can all take our shirt off, mate

After surviving January, the Saints were in pole position for a top four spot, with the result at Old Trafford seeing them leapfrog United into third.

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Inconsistency began to creep in however and ate away at their Champions League ambitions.

Koeman’s men went onto win just five of their games from February to the end of the season and his team slid down the table as a result.

The Saints fell behind Arsenal and Man United in the race for Europe’s elite competition, missing out by ten points. They eventually settled for seventh and a Europa League spot.

Although expectations were high after their encouraging start to the season, a European place was virtually unimaginable at the start of the season.

It was a bizarre point in time when Shane Long even looked decent

Action Images - Reuters
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It was a bizarre point in time when Shane Long even looked decent

Southampton’s attempts at a Champions League gatecrash was almost achieved the following season.

Koeman took his side to sixth in the table during his second season, finishing just three points shy of fourth place.

The Dutchman’s stock sky-rocketed and he cashed in, departing for pastures new with Everton after his spell of over-achieving on the south coast.

He got his karma when he flopped on Merseyside

Reuters
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He got his karma when he flopped on Merseyside

It’s not rocket science that you can only keep selling your best players until the bubble finally bursts.

It’s now a case, perhaps with the exception of Bertrand, that Southampton simply have no top players to even sell.

The demise of the Saints is such that they are one of the favourites to be relegated this season.

Mark Hughes has a job on his hands that surpasses even Koeman’s task when he first arrived to keep this sinking ship afloat.

It’s no surprise he can’t crack a smile

Getty Images - Getty
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It’s no surprise he can’t crack a smile

Good luck, ‘Sparky’…


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