Martin Russell identifies ‘stunning’ Saints’ traits’ as he outlines what the team was lacking in the early start of the EFL season…

As well as consistency in methods and mood, just a little fun was something the majority of the group had been deprived of.

Although most footballers might be well-paid, extremely fortunate individuals – they are still humans, and Martin was tasked with getting the most out of them.

Martin thinks he and his staff are getting closer to fully allowing them to flourish, having come through a “bump in the road” to go seven matches unbeaten.

He said: “I’m in the same place that I was after we lost four. Believing 100 per cent in what we do, in the players to do it, and in the process of how we work.

“We got through that run because we stayed on the path and we didn’t waiver, we stayed consistent with it.

“Outside of the 90 minutes on a Saturday where I turn into a bit of a lunatic, I am a really consistent person most of the time.”

Martin continued: “We gained some trust throughout that period and we showed the players that we would treat them with a lot of care whatever was happening.

“I feel really grateful that they stuck with it and built some pride in it. It takes time because it’s not easy.

“We came into a fractured group, there has been a lot of pain for supporters, staff and players. Relegation from the Premier League is not easy.”

Martin was twice relegated from the Premier League as a player with Norwich City, in 2014 and 2016, and has seen its effect on dressing rooms.

He is a player’s manager, protecting their interests in media engagements, taking responsibility for individual mistakes, and keeping availability information under wraps.

“To change a way of working, how people interact with each other and the way people behave doesn’t happen overnight,” he continued.

“I think the one thing that was lacking was a bit of joy, genuinely, just no fun, no enjoyment, no connection with each other and self-preservation.

“That is what happens in football when you go through a bad time, and if the environment changes a lot – which it did, under three managers last season.

“It’s human nature so to ask them to be vulnerable, to make mistakes and to treat each other with a bit of care on the pitch, and to add some joy into what they do, was not an easy process.


“They are in a place now where they trust us, they trust each other and they enjoy spending time with each other. They have a lot of fun.


“When we get to work, it’s really serious. But we also have moments where it’s not serious and we have fun. I’m really proud of the culture we have.

“It’s especially important for the way we want to play as if you don’t have any fun, when you get onto the pitch it’s different and you can’t become something of any substance.

“The mentality of the group is growing all the time and they have shown a huge amount of care and love for each other in the last few months.

“That is completely different to how it was last year. It’s still going to take time but we are much better prepared if we do have another bump in the road now.”

Saints only have one point fewer than last season’s runaway Championship winners, Burnley, having taken 27 points from their first 15 games.

Burnley took 28, winning seven compared to Southampton’s eight but losing only once and shipping 13 fewer goals.

However, this season, Leicester City, recording the Championship’s best start, are sat on 39 points with 13 victories and two losses.

Ipswich Town, currently second, would also be top by seven points at this stage last season. Both sides have dropped points last time out, though.

Martin said: “We’re competing against two teams who have made the best starts in Championship history so it’s not normal, it’s a complete anomaly.

“If this was last season, our points tally would look really good and I think it is good, especially coming from where we have come from.

“It’s still so early and we need to focus on ourselves, we’re only a third through the season and it will be interesting to see if those two teams can keep it up.

“Them dropping points and us picking up points is only going to help, of course, but we need to keep working and see where it takes us.”


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