Southampton hero Matthew Le Tissier believes the Hampshire club's recent upturn in results will give them the confidence needed to drag themselves out of the relegation dog fight.
The Championship runners-up endured a torrid start to their first Premier League season in seven years, mustering just one victory and four points from their opening 10 matches, shipping a record 28 goals in the process.
But Saints rallied to net eight points in four matches - back-to-back wins over Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle United, and draws with Swansea City and Norwich City - to move off the bottom of the Premier League and to within touching distance of that much-coveted 17th place.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, Le Tissier suggested that this morale-boosting run would prove crucial ahead of Saturday's fixture against a Reading side sat just one place and three points behind them.
"It was a bit of a rough start, but the players and the manager are adapting to the Premier League and the results have picked up over the last month or so," Le Tissier said.
"The belief and the confidence took a bit of a battering early on, and those four results in a row really got the confidence flowing. The fact they came away from Anfield having only lost 1-0 is a positive sign too - had they played that game at the start of the season that could have been four or five.
"They've put themselves in touch with the three teams above them, and now have a couple of massive home matches against two teams also in trouble - Reading and Sunderland."
Le Tissier is no stranger to a relegation battle, having starred in a Southampton side which spent much of his 16-year career flirting with the drop from the top flight.
But the current crop cannot expect to be bailed out by a talisman as talented as the Channel Islander, and the eight-times capped England international says that team spirit will instead be a key factor in determining whether they extend their stay in the top tier or slip back into the Football League.
"When there are little cliques in the dressing room and people aren't all pulling in the same direction, those are often the teams you see get relegated.
"Belief and camaraderie and crucial, and I see a lot of that in this side - they look very much together as a team. That gives you a lot of hope for them.
"I'm a lot more confident now that I was a month ago. The first half a dozen games were a real struggle and it looked as though it may be a forgone conclusion. But they've shown in the last few weeks that they're going to give it a real go and give themselves a good chance, so I'm hopeful."
Matt Le Tissier was speaking at the opening of Decathlon’s new store in Southampton. As the world’s biggest sports retailer, Decathlon is a gateway to sport and is committed to putting sporting activity back at the heart of the nation’s local communities by making it accessible to all. To find out more about how your grassroots club can benefit go to www.decathlon.co.uk
By James Mawcomments