Ralph Hasenhuttl always believed Southampton could battle their way towards Premier League safety, or he would never have taken on the challenge.
Following their 1-1 draw on Tuesday night at Watford – where forward Shane Long scored the fastest goal in Premier League history after just 7.69 seconds – the Saints edged closer to top-flight survival.
Heading into the last three matches of the campaign, which continues at home against Bournemouth, Hasenhuttl’s side are six points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff and with a superior goal difference.
Victory over the Cherries would complete a remarkable turnaround since the Austrian took over in early December following the departure of Mark Hughes, whose side had managed only one win in 14 league games.
Hasenhuttl knows there is still work to do before anyone can allow themselves a sense of accomplishment, but it would be well earned.
“We knew about the tough way we had to go with this team, now we are one win away from being safe, this is a fantastic situation we are in now,” the Southampton boss said.
“We have done a good job so far with development. We still have to improve parts of our game, but the team has showed they are much better committed and with a better understanding of how to win games.
“We are in a good position now, but so far not the 40 points, so I hope we will have it after this weekend.”
Asked if there had been any doubts of what could be achieved, Hasenhuttl said: “If I thought we could not do this, I would not have taken the job.
“In the moment I made the decision to do this job, it was clear I trust my team and that we can stay in the league.
“The way was a very difficult one, but we invested a lot, my staff and the team in this club, to leave this negative track we were in.
“I think we have now the feeling that we are in a period where something is growing here and that is the most important thing for everybody working in this club, that we see that we started to go on a journey that is going in the right direction.”
Four wins out of the previous six matches before losing 3-1 at Newcastle last Saturday had put Hasenhuttl’s men on course to retain their Premier League status.
The Austrian, though, warned Southampton cannot afford another slow start if they do go on to stay up next season.
“One thing is clear, if we are safe, we have to start in a different way next year,” Hasenhuttl said at a press conference reported by the club.
“Because it is not always possible to come from behind and then take the second half all the points you need. That’s a game that doesn’t work every time.”
Defender Ryan Bertrand is doubtful after picking up an ankle knock at Watford, but Hasenhuttl confirmed Matt Targett could return from a muscular problem.
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