Skip to content

Russell Martin: Southampton boss understated yet inspirational as he leads club back into Premier League

Adam Armstrong strike sends Saints back to the Premier League; Russell Martin's approach worked a charm at Wembley as Leeds were stifled by a masterclass of defensive unity

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Southampton manager Russell Martin says earning promotion to the Premier League justifies the decision to appoint him - even if it wasn't an exciting appointment!

"I'm so pleased for them because it wasn't an exciting appointment. I finished 10th with Swansea!"

Those were the words of Russell Martin after he steered Southampton to play-off glory at Wembley, validating the decision to give him the job from the Saints hierarchy.

He wasn't an appointment that would have inspired a beleaguered fan base following a dismal Premier League relegation. Let's face it, he wasn't exactly Vincent Kompany as a player, and hadn't exactly experienced significant glory as a manager.

As he referenced, Swansea, despite gaining huge plaudits for their style, finished meandering in mid-table. His football could entertain but could it also win? That was the question.

Then there was the turbulent summer. Players departed, including captain James Ward-Prowse - who even featured on the first day of the season - while up until Deadline Day there were question marks over the futures of several key players.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Highlights from Wembley as Southampton beat Leeds United 1-0 to return to the Premier League

It started well enough, but a nightmare run in September made some observers wonder whether the job was too big for him, and whether his philosophy wasn't working.

Martin loves to pass, he loves control and adores possession. It was his style that brought him to St Mary's. And it was a style that took a while to gel.

Also See:

Ironically it was a game against Leeds that saw it all click. A vital win to end a run of disastrous defeats, and a stunning unbeaten record soon followed.

Out of nowhere, the Saints were in touching distance of the automatics, involved again in a battle for the ages as Leicester, Ipswich and Leeds all dipped.

A tally of 87 points would have been enough for automatic promotion in years gone by but they fell short. It takes a serious operator to galvanise a group to go again in a play-off campaign - and that's what Martin showed he is.

At Wembley, he showed a new side to his skillset. Tactical flexibility.

Out of the window went his possession-oriented style. It was replaced by a defensive masterclass out of possession to restrict one of the most dangerous attacks ever seen in the Championship.

Martin is famed for his love of keeping the ball and Southampton have had 66 per cent average possession, more than any team in the top five major leagues across Europe this season.

In fact, they have only averaged less than 50 per cent possession four times in matches this season - three of those were against Leeds, including at Wembley where Saints enjoyed just 42 per cent of the ball. Leeds may have had the ball but it was Southampton in full control of the football match.

Danie Farke's team have only been restricted to less than 0.95 worth of expected goals in seven of their 47 games this season - Southampton managed it in all three of their fixtures. They did the treble over Leeds, largely thanks to Martin's intelligent defensive set-up that afforded the likes of Wilfried Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville and Georginio Rutter no room to manoeuvre.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Troy Deeney says there were Leeds players who didn't want to take responsibility in key moments during their 1-0 defeat to Southampton

Martin proved the difference at Wembley, where it mattered most, as his illustrious opponents in white faltered.

But that is just Martin's way. Understated to the extreme. A leader of men in a quiet manner, inspiring leadership in his actions and intent, as much as in his words.

The unexciting appointment has proven to be inspired. And now he has a chance to show what he can do in the Premier League.

When are the 2024/25 Premier League fixtures released?

The Premier League fixtures - all 380 of them - will be released at 9am on Tuesday June 18.

Last year, Sky Sports confirmed its opening weekend picks for live coverage at the same time.

Dates and kick-off times for all Premier League fixtures are subject to change.

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Correctly predict six scorelines for a chance to win £250,000 for free. Entries by 3pm Saturday.

Around Sky