Nigel Adkins is hoping for a ‘special day’ at St Mary’s this weekend as Saints kick off this season’s FA Cup campaign against Chelsea.
The third-round draw sees the current holders come to St Mary’s on Saturday, with manager Adkins keen for his players to embark on a cup run.
“All the lads are looking forward to playing the current cup holders on Saturday,” Nigel told the press this afternoon.
“We want to win the game. We want to go on a cup run – it’s the famous FA Cup and we’re taking it seriously.
“We’ve only lost two games in the last ten, so we’ve got a good run of form about ourselves.
“I think we’ve come a long way from the start of the campaign when goals were going in and we were on the wrong side of defeats.
“There’s been a growing maturity about everybody and we want to keep that going, whether that’s in a league game or a cup game.”
Adkins says he will assess his players ahead of the game, with a number of them having played four games in ten days over the Christmas period.
Adam Lallana will miss out again because of the knee injury he suffered a month ago, while Nathaniel Clyne’s own knee problem makes it unclear whether he will feature against the Blues.
“We’ve got a few little knocks – as every team is going to have – but I’m sure everyone is going to put themselves forward for the weekend’s game,” said the gaffer.
“We’ve got a group of players who have worked extremely hard over the last few weeks when the games have been coming thick and fast.
“That will come into consideration for the team selection, but we want to win the game.
“The lads need to go out and compete against a side that lost the other night,” Adkins said of Chelsea, who made five changes to their starting XI for last night’s home defeat to Queens Park Rangers.
“I’m sure they’ll want to win it because they are the cup holders and they’ll want to retain their trophy.
“They’ve got a squad of players, and they believe whoever they put out is going to win that game of football.
“They’ve been to Japan and have had a run of fixtures over the Christmas period when – like it or not – the games come thick and fast.
“You do have to rotate the players because that’s what they’re there for.”
Adkins spoke of his own memories of the FA Cup, which included seeing his boyhood side Liverpool lift the trophy, and then pointed to Saints’ own rich history in the competition.
“When you’re young, you always watch it (the FA Cup) on the TV so everyone has got memories – that’s why it’s so famous, not just in England but worldwide,” he said.
“Our football club has gone and won it before, so the history of Southampton Football Club is there and imprinted on the cup so it can never be taken away.
“We won it in 1976 and got to the final again in 2003, which was great for our supporters.
“The FA Cup is about the supporters – they dream about being on a cup run and we’ve got an opportunity at home,” he continued.
“Yes, we are against the cup holders but we want to give ourselves a chance to win the game.
“We’ve all got to make it a special day because it’s a one-off in the season. It’s proven that, on any one given occasion, anybody can beat anybody.
“We know that Chelsea are going to be a good outfit but we’re at home in front of a good, passionate crowd. It’s going to be a good test for everybody.”