Jack Cork says recent performances have seen Saints play their way back in contention for a top-eight position in the Barclays Premier League.
After a tough December schedule, Southampton are on a four league match unbeaten run with eight points collected out of a possible 12.
Not so long ago, the league standings made for strange viewing as the team were somewhat stranded in the middle of the table, sitting eight points ahead of clubs in the bottom-half of the table, with the same number of points to make up on Newcastle in eighth place.
This weekend Saints may get the opportunity to move up a place in the table with the Magpies travelling to in-form Chelsea, and Cork believes there is still plenty to play for if the team can make a positive start to their 14 remaining league matches, starting with the visit of Stoke City to St Mary’s this weekend.
Ahead of the game, he told Saints Player: “One or two weeks ago we were sat in the middle of the table almost on our own in our own little league, but we seemed to have pulled away a bit. I remember what Adam [Lallana] was saying recently about putting a little bit of pressure on Newcastle above us, and I think we’re two points behind them now and five off Man United, so if we can get anywhere near them in the next week it will be great because the higher we can finish the better.
“We have to get the result first, but obviously for Newcastle it’s going to be a hard game for them coming off the back of Chelsea’s result in midweek against Man City, where they put in a great performance, so if Chelsea can get another result then that will be great for us, as it might put us a bit higher in the table hopefully.”
Saints go in search of a sixth home league win on Saturday against a team who have only taken one victory on the road this season, but Cork is wary of the threat that Stoke will pose as the Potters continue their transformation under Mark Hughes.
“They’ve still got most of the players from last year and a few players were brought in during the summer that like to play a bit,” the Saints midfielder explained.
“You could see that in the game against us they were trying to play more football against us at their place. The physical challenge is always going to be there so we might have to change a few things which we did last season, but then last season was different for them, so hopefully it will be a nice little game.”
It’s the first of three matches inside seven days for Saints, and as he assessed the fixtures, Cork set his sights on a successful week as the team battles for success in both league and cup competition.
“We sort of owe Sunderland one I think because we’ve played them a few times this season and haven’t got the results so that will be a good cup game next Saturday,” he said.
“We’ve got Hull away [on Tuesday] and that’s going to be a hard game for us because it’s far away and they’ve been playing some good stuff at times, but we put in a good performance at home when we played against them earlier in the season.
“We’ve also got the game this Saturday against Stoke which isn’t going to be an easy game, but they’re all games that we can get things from, and if we come away from this week with a maximum return then we’ll be in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and we will be six points better off, so we will be pushing higher up the table which would be nice.”
Cork is hopeful of extending his own run in the team during that time. Since coming back into the side during Victor Wanyama’s absence he has played eleven times and earned positive reviews from supporters in that time.
Jack admits that the competition he has received from Wanyama for his place this season has spurred him on, but doesn’t feel the focus from outside should be solely on the duo’s battle when there are other positions in the team also being fiercely contested.
“Sometimes it’s nice to go about your job and not have the attention, but I also think back to when I wasn’t involved at the start of the season,” Cork highlights.
“I feel like lately I’ve been picking up. Obviously it was a slow start to the season for me and quite a frustrating one as I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my chance, but quite similar to last season – I didn’t really kick on until November-December time so it’s good to get a chance again because I wasn’t sure if I was going to get one.
“Now it feels as though I’m coming up to the pace of it and starting to show some of my best stuff, so it would be nice to keep this run of form going and play as many games as I can towards the end of the season.
“Victor’s back fit now so it’s good to have a few people talking about me and Victor and stuff. It’s good, the competition is nice, and the club’s in a good place at the minute because we’ve got competition everywhere with Clyney [Nathaniel Clyne] and Chambo [Calum Chambers] etc. which is good for everyone.”