Fraser Forster believes that Southampton should now be ready to compete in Europe by building on last season’s foray into the Europa League.
Saints now know the stage at which they will enter the competition and Forster says that the momentum of two successful Premier League seasons as a group will benefit the team as a whole in 2016/17.
Forster is one of a handful of players who have committed their long-term future to the club in recent weeks and sees the self-belief growing within the squad.
“Obviously I agreed a new five-year deal and for me I feel like the club is looking to push forward and showing the ambition to strive to keep improving and keep moving forward,” he said.
“Off the back of the last couple of years, the way it’s been and the way it’s been under the manager, the chairman, Les Reed and the owner, everyone wants to keep moving forward. As a player I’m ambitious and we have ambitious players in the squad. I think the main thing is that there is a real desire to keep on improving and moving forward.
“We’ve had a couple of really good years, finishing in Europe two years on the bounce,” he added. “I think we just want to have a real crack at Europe and keep trying to move forward in the league after a record number of points this year.
“We are always looking to build. That’s important but as long as we keep doing what we are doing and have a good summer in the transfer market, we’ll see where it can take us.”
Saints put the final pieces of their squad together shortly after exiting the Europa League in the qualifying rounds last year, but Forster anticipates a better showing from the team this time around.
“It’s obviously extra games but that is where you need depth in the squad but the club know that anyway and we’ve got a fantastic squad as it is,” he highlighted.
“I think for us we just want to have a real go with it, especially given the amount of European experience we have in the squad. Me, Virgil [Van Dijk], Victor [Wanyama], Bertie [Ryan Bertrand] have all played Champions League and no doubt others have as well, so we do have good experience and it will be important to use that moving forward.”
And an improved showing in Europe may also help Saints’ performances in the Premier League as the club looks to take another step forward next term.
“We weren’t too far off it this year,” said Forster. “If we can maybe show a little bit more consistency as we’ve obviously had a fantastic season, beaten the big teams but it’s about picking up a few more points off the others. Obviously it’s important that we have a strong squad and keep our players fit, we’ll give ourselves the best chance.”