Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse admitted “we’ve not been good enough” following his side’s relegation from the Premier League.
After a sorry season that has seen them occupy one of the relegation spots since November 5, their 12th home defeat of the season against Fulham meant they will be playing in the second tier next season.
They last suffered relegation from the Premier League in 2005 – it took them seven years to win promotion back after a period that also saw them relegated to League One.
Three managers have occupied the St Mary’s hot-seat this season and none of them have managed more than three league wins with Ralph Hasenhuttl, Nathan Jones and Ruben Selles all failing to find a winning formula at the club.
“It’s disappointing but it’s a moment that has been coming,” said Ward-Prowse, who has made 407 appearances for Southampton. “We’d put ourselves in a difficult position and I thought we did well to take it to this stage of the season.
“When these sorts of things happen, you go away individually and as a club and reflect on whether we did everything we could to achieve our goal. I don’t think we have and that’s a shame as I feel it is about having no regrets and leaving everything out there.
“Over the course of the season that has caught up with us. Ultimately, that’s why we are where we are now.”
Ward-Prowse: We haven’t done enough to stay up
Second-half finishes from Carlos Vinicius and substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic inflicted a club-record 24th defeat of the season on the division’s bottom club to leave them eight points from safety with just two fixtures remaining.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – a Saints fan – was among those in attendance on the south coast as the hosts’ 11-season stay in the top flight ended in tame fashion.
He witnessed a team lacking confidence, ideas and urgency produce another feeble performance of a miserable campaign featuring just two home league wins.
Vinicius broke the deadlock in the 48th minute, before Mitrovic, who was handed the lengthy suspension for grabbing referee Chris Kavanagh in his side’s FA Cup loss at Manchester United on March 19, condemned Saints to the Championship by heading home his 13th goal of the season.
Boos and chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” from home supporters greeted the full-time whistle.
“Everyone will go away and reflect on the season that’s gone by. Have decisions been right? Have we been good enough on the pitch? Have we as a group and as a team done everything we can to progress and perform as we should be?” Ward-Prowse said.
“I believe we should be performing at a better level than we have done and ultimately we’ve not done that on a consistent basis. Over the course, we’ve not been good enough from the first day of pre-season until now.
“The standards of the football club have slipped away and that’s ultimately why we’ve got relegated. It’s hard to get self-belief without results and performances.
“You also need special moments from individuals and we’ve not had enough of that this season. That is something that grows with results, and they’ve not been there all season.
“I’ve been on a journey with the club since I was eight years old – I’ve seen the ups and downs, the good times and the bad. This is a bad time, but I’m sure with the good people at the club it will be back in the Premier League in no time.”
Saints relegation in numbers
- Southampton have been relegated from the Premier League for the first time since the 2004-05 season, and third time from the top-flight overall (also 1973-74). 2022-23 was their 11th consecutive Premier League season.
- Southampton have now lost more league games this season (24) than in any previous campaign as a Football League/Premier League side. They have lost at least seven times under three different managers in the league this term: Ralph Hasenhüttl (8), Nathan Jones (7), and Rubén Sellés (9).
- There were just 57 seconds between Carlos Alcaraz’s offside for Southampton and Carlos Vinícius putting Fulham 1-0 ahead.
On his own future, Ward-Prowse added: “I’m not thinking too far ahead. We’ve just been relegated from the Premier League, so I’m not looking beyond tomorrow.
“It’s all about today and making sure we stick together as a group and we deal with this in the right way as a club and move forward in that way.
“Over the last 10 years, we had a consistent belief and structure that has wavered a little bit this season. It’s going to be a testing time for everybody, but these are the times that make or break you as a player and as a club. We’ve done it before and we have to do it again.”
Selles: Club will bounce back quickly
Southampton boss Ruben Selles:
“It’s a tough day for everybody, the performance on the pitch was not what we expect it to be and we were not good enough today and that’s why we are in this situation.
“If we were in our standards, we would not be talking about this situation right now. We need to face it like that.
“I don’t think there is one point where you can say that is exactly the point where it happened.
“As a club we need to evaluate and see what the standards that James referred to are and be sure that when the club starts the next season those standards are on point.”
Days spent bottom of Premier League
- Southampton – 138
- Leicester/Wolves – 44
- Nottingham Forest – 32
- Manchester United – 8
- West Ham/Bournemouth – 7
- Crystal Palace – 1
“I think we didn’t show exactly the team we want to be – I think today the situation was bigger than us.
“But even then, in those key moments, we scored a goal and it was offside and then from the next action we concede – that has been the trend for the whole season.
“There is not only one reason [for relegation] – but one of the things that we didn’t find during the season was enough togetherness, enough trust in each other just to be competitive.
Lowest home xG total of season
|Crystal Palace||Manchester City||11/03/2023||0.21|
“We showed it in bits in games like against Chelsea, Arsenal, in the first half against Newcastle but we were not able to be continuously competitive in those moments – we have not been good enough as a team.”
On whether the problems pre-dated his reign, Selles said: “I will not make that excuse, that is not me – when I took the team I was convinced I could get this team out of relegation and I didn’t make it, and I am the first one who is responsible for this run. From the beginning I thought we can do it so if somebody is responsible for the last three months, it’s me.”
On his future, Selles added: “I don’t have any indication right now. We talk with the club and we will do that at the end of the season – I say ‘with or without me’ because that is the reality, it is one or the other, there are only two options.
“I know the quality around me, I feel it and I know the club will bounce back quickly.”
Southampton are a football club burdened by trouble and strife. It has been that way since their European zenith under Ronald Koeman – an extension of the fine work Mauricio Pochettino had undertaken in the two seasons before his arrival.
Saints are a far cry from the club the Dutchman inherited back in 2014. And some distance from where they themselves expected to be after establishing a brief foothold as one of the Premier League’s top-half teams.
A story that got muddled before reaching its fairy tale conclusion.
Indeed, Southampton’s plight is a bit like a ‘once upon a time’, less the happy ending. A series of pinch points without the comfort of resolution.