Another busy week begins at Southampton Football Club, and, as it gets started, we bring you all the latest from across the levels...
Saints secure Premier League safety
A wild 3-3 draw with Bournemouth at St Mary’s was enough to secure Southampton’s Premier League status on Saturday, completing the remarkable turnaround that began with the arrival of Ralph Hasenhüttl in December.
Goals from Shane Long, his fourth in five games, James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett, his first for the club, looked to have set up a home victory only for Callum Wilson’s late equaliser.
A win would have taken Saints up to the 40-point mark but Cardiff’s defeat at Fulham ensured that it mattered little in the grand scheme of things at the bottom of the table as Hasenhüttl’s men reached safety with two games to spare.
Saturday’s game was the 13th in a row at St Mary’s in which the home side have scored at least once; only Man City (19), Arsenal (17) and Liverpool (14) are enjoying a longer such run in the Premier League.
Hasenhüttl looking to end season strongly
Ralph Hasenhüttl praised the efforts of his players at full-time, hailing the significant workload his squad have shared to get over the safety line in the past few months.
A rest ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Ham was in order but the Austrian has called on his players to end the season as strongly as possible nonetheless in the remaining two fixtures.
It’s a moment where you are happy and want to celebrate with your fans,” he said. “That was the moment we were working for and now it’s done it’s fantastic.
“They will have a few days off. I think they deserve it because they did a lot of the last month, really hard-working.
“Then we have two more games and it’s important we carry on working to take a few points for our supporters.
“For the league, it’s important you stay working and you stay fair. That is what we’ll do.”
Southampton FC Women keep it perfect
Southampton FC Women rounded off a perfect season on Sunday afternoon with a 6-0 victory over Oxford City, meaning they’ve taken maximum points from every Southern Region Premier League game faced.
Even more impressive considering this year was the squad’s first under the stewardship of Marieanne Spacey-Cale; Saints began the season as newcomers, but finished it as champions.
They’ll gain automatic promotion to the tier above, conceding just four goals all season, and will join the likes of Cheltenham and Swindon Town in the FA Women's National League for the 2019/20 campaign.
The first of Saints’ six goals was scored by Ellie Chaffe in the fourth minute, as she gathered a tremendous cross-field pass from Ella Morris and finished on the half-volley with her right foot.
England youth international Phoebe Williams added a second midway through the first half, before Georgie Freeland scrambled the ball over the line six minutes before the interval, pouncing on Oxford’s failure to clear.
Ella Pusey netted the visitors’ fourth and fifth, the second of which was a well-taken penalty, before Chloe Newton headed Saints’ finale in the 76th minute.
St Mary’s finale for U23s
Radhi Jaïdi’s U23s will look to round off their regular season on a high and secure a favourable play-off draw against Sunderland at St Mary’s on Monday night.
It was a three-horse race for the Premier League 2 at the beginning of the week with Saints locked on 40 points with Wolves and Reading before the Midlands club beat Manchester United 3-2, making it virtually impossible for Jaïdi side to overtake them.
A win over Sunderland will secure second place, and therefore an all-important home draw for the play-off semi's.
"It's an opportunity again for us to get to Division One and we're still enjoying the ride,” Jaïdi said.
"We're unlucky not to be in a position to win it, but it's 23s level - there's always a development aspect to this league.
"This season's experience has been invaluable; we've competed at the top of the table for more than half of the season.”
Good luck, Franny!
Southampton legend Franny Benali undertakes his greatest challenge yet today, as he concludes his trilogy of ultra-endurance events with the aim of reaching his £1m fundraising total for Cancer Research UK.
Dubbed IronFran, the 50-year-old's latest challenge will see him fight to complete seven ironman triathlons across seven consecutive days, beginning on Monday 29th April and finishing on Sunday 5th May.
Already, Benali has raised about £700,000 through his two previous epic undertakings – Benali's Big Run, in which he ran more than 1,000 miles between each Premier League ground in 2014, and then Benali's Big Race, which saw him cover 1,400 miles across a fortnight as he ran and cycled to all 44 top-flight and Championship stadiums in 2016.
"The generosity and the warmth that people show is so encouraging for me,” he said. “There's a lot of negativity out in the world and we see that on a day-to-day basis in the press and the media, and that almost gives you that faith in humanity that there's a lot of good people out there and people willing to do things and support challenges like this in a positive way, so that gives me a lot of hope and optimism."
Benali will need more than just that to complete his latest, and what he says will likely be his final, ultra-endurance effort, but there can be little doubting just how big a part the support will play.
To donate £5 or £10, text FRAN5 or FRAN10 to 70200, or visit ironfran.co.uk to donate any other amount. You can follow Franny's progress throughout the week at @IronFran2019 on Twitter.