By Matthew Rose

Southampton Football Club have certainly not been short of drama since returning to the Premier League four years ago.

Summer after summer, fans have seen the clubs top stars sold on, somewhat frustratingly, for huge profits.

This summer has been no different. Star forward Sadio Mane, midfield enforcer Victor Wanyama and Italian international striker Graziano Pelle have all departed for Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Shandong Luneng respectively.

A pill far bitterer to swallow, however, was the departure of manager Ronald Koeman to Everton – a team who finished five places below the Saints last year.

The Dutch coach had been instrumental in creating a defensively solid team that harries, hassles and harasses opponents all over the pitch – this was the Southampton way, the identity; his successor would need to carry this on and build on the sixth place finish of last term.

Enter, Claude Puel.

The experienced French manager certainly hasn’t had an easy start. Two points and no wins from the opening four games left the Saints languishing in 19th place in the table – even before the draining Europa League schedule began.

You could forgive the St. Mary’s faithful for beginning to wonder whether the success of previous years was about to come to a crashing, grinding halt.

That still might be the case, but not if a certain 27-year-old English striker has anything to say about it.

Since moving to Southampton from Queens Park Rangers in January, Charlie Austin has been dogged with injury problems.

The former non-league sensation has only made a handful of appearances in the famous red and white, but now finds himself returning to full fitness and doing what he does best – scoring goals.

A Europa League brace against Sparta Prague was quickly followed up by the winner against Swansea on Sunday, with Austin beginning to rediscover the predatory instinct that saw him hit 18 goals for QPR in the 2014-15 campaign.

After the game, the former Poole Town man said strikers are judged on their goals.

“Stats don’t lie and, for me, I like to be in the box to score goals, but to be honest I should have scored three today,” Austin told the Southampton official website.

“The win on Thursday gave us a platform and we knew we needed to get a win in the league and we showed a good team spirit.”

Austin certainly seems like a man renewed and this resurgence couldn’t have been timelier for Puel.

A home tie against Crystal Palace in the EFL Cup is followed by a trip to the London Stadium and West Ham United four days later.

Southampton can now head into those fixtures full of confidence, with the expectancy to get positive results in both games to continue this good run.

Admittedly, a top-six finish will be incredibly difficult to emulate given the quality of the teams in the Premier League this season.

But if you throw Austin’s goals into a mix that already boasts Shane Long’s tenacity, Nathan Redmond’s trickery and Dusan Tadic’s creativity and guile, there is no reason why Puel’s men can’t have another excellent season this time around.


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