The Press Box: Paul Belverstone

By SFC Media Sat 25 Feb Man Utd vs Saints

Ahead of the EFL Cup final, we've been getting the views of some experienced Southampton reporters. The final edition of the series features Paul Belverstone, of Premier League Productions...

You've covered the club for some time. How does it feel to see them going back to Wembley?

"I can't believe that in 14 years it's only their second major cup final. It shows what an achievement and opportunity this is. It's fantastic, and the whole city really gets behind it and excited. Everyone I've spoken to is either going or is desperately chasing around for tickets. I was in Westquay the other day and the sale of flags, shirts, scarves and everything – they must be doing an incredible trade.

"That end – the same as the JPT final – is going to be red and white throughout, and they'll make a lot of noise as well. It will be a fantastic occasion."

there's only be one major cup-winning captain of southampton. it's time for a second one.

paul belverstone
premier league productions

What have you made of the run to the final?

"It's sort of the opposite of 2003, when it was largely all lower-league teams. Now, it's been all big guns really.

"Ok, there was Sunderland, who were struggling, but they're still a Premier League team. There was only one thing to talk about in that game – it wasn't a great game, apart from Sofiane Boufal announcing himself to us all in such an incredible away.

"The rest of it – beating Arsenal, and Liverpool over two legs, and deserving to win all of those games as well, probably by greater margins, has just been absolutely tremendous. I remember we sat down in the summer and said it's going to potentially be the toughest season ever to finish in the top ten of the Premier League, so how about a cup run, because it's long overdue? Fair play to Claude, he's delivered."

What are the chances of Southampton lifting the trophy?

"Given the way they played against Liverpool – they played them off the park – you can't say they've got no chance. There are parallels to '76 of course. It's at Wembley, against United. They do go there as underdogs. There are people picking out individual battles, where they say United are far stronger, but not many people gave them a great chance at the Emirates or at Anfield. Now they're going to Wembley, so why can't they make it three and a row?

"It's been such a long time – 41 years. There's only ever been one major cup-winning captain of Southampton. It's time for a second one, and I think this could be the time."

if gabbiadini, romeu and stephens perform, they will be a long way towards lifting a trophy.

paul belverstone
premier league productions

Who are the key players for Southampton on Sunday?

"Gabbiadini has made an incredible impact, and if that could continue for one more game how wonderful that would be. He's really added some sparkle and is showing every attribute of a striker. His goals have been so varied and so exciting that if he can produce another one or two at Wembley that would be amazing.

"Obviously, Saints lost at Old Trafford in August, but they lost Oriol Romeu after ten or 12 minutes, but since then he has been immense. He is so good in that position, and they need his remarkable consistency to continue.

"Everyone has obviously got to chip in, but Ryan Bertrand is a very exciting, creative player down the left. Has there ever been a bigger challenge for Jack Stephens? Maya Yoshida, who's really stepped up since losing senior partners, is showing great leadership at the moment and he needs to continue that again, perhaps helped by Fraser Forster at the back.

"Everyone's got a part to play. You've got a European champion in Cédric, who can add things off the pitch as well as on it, because no one in that squad has played on a bigger stage than he has now, certainly recently.

"Gabbiadini, Romeu, Jack Stephens – those three down the spine – if they can all perform then they will be a long way towards lifting a trophy."

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