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Page last updated at 06:37 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 07:37 UK

Southampton in a rush for Premier League return

Pardew at Wembley
Pardew issues instructions at Wembley as Carlisle boss Greg Abbott looks on

By Stephan Shemilt

If Portsmouth's impending relegation is to be followed by a further fall, they could do a lot worse than to look to near-neighbours and bitter rivals Southampton for inspiration when they begin the rebuilding process.

The Saints know a few things about falling from grace. Two years after reaching the 2003 FA Cup final, they were relegated from the Premier League (an instant parallel here, although Pompey will be relegated two years after winning the Cup), then dropped from the Championship last season and, because off their financial struggles, started this term with a 10-point deduction.

But it seems that redemption could finally be at hand. Sunday's 4-1 win over Carlisle in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy will be seen as another small step on the road back to the top by a club who have not given up on their slim hopes of promotion this season.

And, if they do have to wait another season for a return to the Championship (they are 12 points off the play-offs with nine games remaining), Saints are hoping that another promotion follows soon afterwards.

Saints fans
Southampton fans enjoyed their day

"When I was at Reading we got promoted to the Championship and almost went straight through," recalled Southampton boss Alan Pardew. "You can see a similar thing happening at Leicester this season."

Pardew himself knows what it is like to suffer a fall. He left Reading to join West Ham but was never universally accepted, despite leading them to promotion to the Premier League and a narrow FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

On leaving Upton Park with the Hammers in danger of the drop from the top flight, he pitched up at Charlton, but could not save Athletic from slipping through the trap door.

A poor start to the following season in the Championship cost him his job at The Valley in November 2008 and he remained unemployed until taking the job at St Mary's at the beginning of this season.

"We got beaten at Swindon and Huddersfield in our first two away games and the acceptance of those defeats really worried me," said Pardew. "It was almost taken as given that that's what happens here.

"So we attacked every competition and I got the rewards for that. The defeat to Portsmouth in the FA Cup could have easily swung our way and we gave Birmingham a real good go in the League Cup.

Even if we don't go up this season, I will be looking this summer to build a team for the Championship

Alan Pardew

"We built that winning mentality and it has paid off on the big stage."

But Pardew knows that success in the JP Trophy will only appease Saints chairman Markus Liebherr for a short time. Chief executive Nicola Cortese told BBC Radio Solent earlier this month that the gap between Saints and the League One leaders is "too big", even when the points deduction was taken into account.

If Pardew's ambitious bid for promotion this season fails, only one more term in the third tier of English football will be tolerated by the St Mary's hierarchy.

"The owners want success tomorrow, which is fine, but we know that the football world doesn't work as quickly as that," added Pardew.

"There's been a lot of speculation about what the chief executive has said and the pressure he has put on us and I have to accept that.

"He's being driven to get this team in the Premier League, so sometimes his driving of me could perhaps put too much pressure on me. Other times, you could say that it's just about right.

"But we've won something and now I can look him in the eye and say that we are doing good things here."

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Not that Pardew will be resting on his laurels and settling for any less than promotion next season at the latest.

"This team has proven that it is good enough to get promoted, but with the points deduction we've had a lot of work to do," he continued.

"Even if we don't go up this season, I will be looking this summer to build a team for the Championship.

"I said I would need two years to get the team out of League One and I know I will be judged on that. I think that within that time I can get this team promoted."

And after that?

"Sitting here as Southampton manager in three years time, I will expect us to be challenging for the Premier League," he concluded.

A bold ambition, especially when you consider that of all the teams to fall from the Premier League to the third tier, only Manchester City have managed to claw their way back.

Pardew, it seems, is looking for Southampton's rise to be swifter than their fall.



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see also
Carlisle United 1-4 Southampton
28 Mar 10 |  Football
Pardew targeting play-off glory
28 Mar 10 |  Southampton
Southampton 3-1 MK Dons (agg 4-1)
09 Feb 10 |  Football


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