Saints boss desperate for EFL Cup glory
“Yes, we’re in the final, but now we’ve got to go and win the thing!”
That was the message – minus some swearing – from Mick Channon, after Southampton booked their place in the 1976 FA Cup final, against Manchester United.
the most important thing is to win – not just to participate.claude puel
Now, 41 years on, as the club looks to replicate the feats of Lawrie McMenemy’s side and secure only the second major title in their history, manager Claude Puel holds exactly the same outlook.
"It's a fantastic journey, because all the squad have been able to participate in this story, but now the most important thing is to win, and not just to participate or just to play the game,” says Puel, as he looks ahead to Sunday’s clash, again with United, in the EFL Cup final, at Wembley.
“I think all the players have stayed with a good concentration and a good focus on the game, without thinking about other things, like the result or what can happen after.
“It's important to keep all our concentration about this game and about our play.”
Sunday will mark Southampton’s first major final in 14 years, and anticipation around the city, and among Saints fans across the world, is incredibly high.
But Puel says Saints must not get overawed by the occasion.
"Of course, we don't know Wembley, but for me all the stadiums here are new,” he explains. “But it's just important to play a good game and stay focused on our play.
“We know we play a great team and against great players, but I think with our quality – we showed good things against Arsenal and in the two legs against Liverpool – we know we can produce a strong game and that we can win.
“It's important to have a positive attitude and a positive spirit about this game.”
we are focused just about the game and the details.claude puel
To help his players prepare for the final, Puel took them to Spain for a training camp last weekend, and he believes getting away from the spotlight back home for a few days was a worthwhile exercise.
“At the beginning of last week, we were able to give the players three or four days off, which was their first group of days off since the beginning of the season,” he says.
“It was very important for them to recover and, after, we went to Spain to prepare for this game in a good training camp – the quality of the pitch was good, there was a good atmosphere and attitude, and a lot of strong and hard work.
“It was a good moment to spend together, just thinking about the game, but to take pleasure also. It was a good training camp, and it's the first time also that we have been able to take two weeks to prepare for a game.
"It was a good thing, because it was in another country, with different activities, and different possibilities to think about things other than the final. We are now focused just about our game and the details – free-kicks, all the normal things before the game, not just to think about it being a final.”