Gone are the days of Southampton fans watching their team play in the lower leagues throughout the season before putting their feet up and watching…
Gone are the days of Southampton fans watching their team play in the lower leagues throughout the season before putting their feet up and watching players from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal at major tournaments in the summer. Nowadays the majority of Ronald Koeman`s team play for their country and here we look at who is heading to the European Championships.
Fraser Forster seemed unlikely to head to France with England having spent the best part of a year on the sidelines following on from a ruptured patellar tendon suffered against Burnley last March. In January however, he returned to the side for a 2-0 win against Watford which proved the catalyst for the team`s revival having struggled for form and consistency in the first half of the season. This was the first of six consecutive clean sheets which propelled Forster into a position where he was a clear favourite to head to the Euros alongside fellow in-form goalkeepers Joe Hart and Jack Butland. Butland`s injury ruling him out of the tournament has cemented Forster`s position as England`s number two although it may prove difficult to dislodge Hart as Roy Hodgson`s first choice.
With the likes of Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Aaron Creswell and Kieran Gibbs all vying for the left-back position in the England squad, there was a lot of competition for Ryan Bertrand to shake off. However, the ex-Chelsea full-back has beaten off all those players to be picked alongside Danny Rose. Having made 32 Premier League appearances this season, Bertrand has carried on the fine form that saw Ronald Koeman make his loan move permanent halfway through his loan spell last year. Bertrand was clearly missed as he sat out the first few weeks of the campaign with an injury which saw the inexperienced Matt Targett receive a run in the side. He faces stiff competition from Rose to be picked for England`s first game against Russia on June the 11th.
Cedric Soares has had an indifferent season for Southampton. First choice at right-back throughout the majority of the campaign, he lost his place in the final few weeks to Curacao international Cuco Martina. Nonetheless, this has not stopped Fernando Santos calling him up for Portugal. Wolfsburg`s Vieirinha is expected to start in France meaning Cedric may find it tough to add to his ten caps. He is however in the squad and will hope to impress Santos between now and his country`s opener against Iceland on June the 14th.
Another Portuguese international to receive a call-up is Saints captain Jose Fonte. Like his compatriot, Fonte has 10 caps and faces stiff competition from Pepe and Bruno Alves in the race to start against Iceland. The last remaining player of Saints` meteoric rise from League One, Fonte is a latecomer to the international scene having only received his first cap at the back end of 2014. After another successful season at St. Marys he will hope to be able to force himself into Santos` plans.
Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis has played a key role in Southampton`s late surge into the Europa League with his brace against Spurs in the 2-1 victory at White Hart Lane undoubtably the highlight of his season. As captain of his country, Davis will be certain to start for Michael O`Neill`s side against Poland in Nice on June the 12th. With 82 caps to his name, only Aaron Hughes (99 caps) brings more experience to the side than Davis. Northern Ireland may struggle to progress beyond the group stages however with tricky games against Ukraine and Poland alongside a match against World Champions Germany.
Representing the Republic of Ireland in France next month will be in-form Saints striker Shane Long. Eyebrows were raised when Koeman brought him to St. Marys for £12m two years ago, but he has proved to be a revelation since cementing a place in the starting line up earlier this season. He`s scored a personal best of 10 goals this season also chipping in with 4 assists. But what has really won over fans is his commitment and hard work. If he can carry his club form over to the international stage then he could prove to be a real handful against Sweden, Belgium and Italy in what looks to be a competitive Group E.
The final Saint to make it to France this summer is Italian striker Graziano Pelle. As with Fonte, Pelle has burst onto the international scene late on in his career thanks to his good performances for Southampton. He is already the most experienced striker in the Italy squad having won 12 caps (equal with Ciro Immobile) and can expect to play a leading role for the Azzurri against Sweden, Belgium and Long`s Republic of Ireland. Only experienced duo Giorgio Chiellini (6) and Daniele De Rossi (17) who have a combined 185 caps have scored more international goals than the 5 scored by Pelle.
Of the players who haven`t been called up this summer, the one who can perhaps feel most unfortunate to miss out is Florin Gardos. The Romanian centre-back looked likely to be in head coach Anghel Iordanescu`s plans before a long-term injury suffered in a pre-season friendly against Feyenoord in July 2015 led to him missing the whole season. Having scored 18 goals in his debut Premier League season with QPR, Charlie Austin would have hoped to force his way into Roy Hodgson`s plans following a January move to the South Coast. A combination of injuries, fitness issues and the late-season form of Pelle, Long and Sadio Mane restricted him to a handful of mainly substitute appearances though ruling him out of contention for an international call-up. Jay Rodriguez was a contender for the 2014 World Cup squad despite an unimpressive debut against Chile due to his good form in the Premier League. An ACL injury in April 2014 at Manchester City put him out of action for 16 months however and subsequent injury problems have dogged him since.