‘Stupid’ to predict Southampton could top table, says Ralph Hasenhuttl
Ralph Hasenhuttl said it would have been “stupid” to predict Southampton could stand at the summit of English football.
Victory against Newcastle at St Mary’s Stadium tomorrow night will see the Saints spend at least a day at the top of the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
Indeed, it is 32 years, when Southampton were managed by Chris Nicholl, that they could last regard themselves as top-flight table-toppers.
But following a run of four victories from their last five outings, Hasenhuttl’s side are on the brink of a small piece of history.
“If you told me this would happen before the season, I would say you are a little bit stupid,” said Hasenhuttl. “We are lucky that we play Friday evening because it gives us a great chance.”
It caps a remarkable 12 months for Hasenhuttl after his side were thrashed 9-0 by Leicester last October and facing up to the prospect of a relegation dogfight.
But they went on to finish a credible 11th and head into Friday’s fixture fifth in the division after their opening seven matches.
However, Hasenhuttl is refusing to get carried away with his side’s encouraging early-season form.
“I have seen so many teams in the beginning of the season being top of the table and near the top, and then relegated,” the former RB Leipzig manager added.
“We know things can change so quickly – a few injuries or something like that – but at the moment we are a very strong side and we showed again we can have a high level of performing.
“Before I came here, I worked at a team where losing was nearly not allowed because we wanted to be top in Germany, and this mentality I tried to implement from the first day that I’m here.
“We have that mentality of, I sometimes call it, we like to be the pirate and it’s more fun than to join the navy. So it’s definitely something we can use every day and makes it fun to go and grab some points from the big teams.”
Hasenhuttl will be without Danny Ings for the visit of Newcastle after his star striker underwent surgery on a knee injury. The England international, who has scored five times this season, is set to be sidelined for at least one month.
In his absence, Theo Walcott and Shane Long are in contention to spearhead Southampton’s attack alongside Che Adams.
Hasenhuttl, 53, added: “Whoever gets the chance to play should know this is a big chance and grab it because we now have four to six weeks without Danny.
“We need somebody who gives us alternatives, and who gives us the best opportunities for what we demand – we will take a decision from there.”