SAINTS’ next league opponents are off to sunnier climes – and that has acted in the club’s favour recently.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has revealed a warm-weather training camp in Dubai has been the perfect carrot to dangle in front of his squad.
The Hammers were struggling for form until the end of January but, ever since their plane to the United Arab Emirates was booked, Allardyce feels he has seen an improvement from his players.
A hard-fought 0-0 draw at current Premier League leaders Chelsea has been followed up with three successive wins as Swansea, Aston Villa and Norwich were all beaten 2-0.
The victory over the Canaries on Tuesday came courtesy of late goals from James Collins and Mohamed Diame after West Ham had been outplayed for much of the contest.
Taking 10 points from four games has seen the Hammers move from the periphery of the relegation zone to 10th.
Although they remain in the battle for survival, Allardyce knows getting away for a few days due to their early exit from the FA Cup will help keep the momentum going ahead of Saints’ visit to Upton Park on February 22 “It's already benefited us,” Allardyce said.
“Once the lads knew the trip was booked four or five weeks ago, it has been part of our turnaround. It was something for them to look forward to, to strive for and to know that they are going to do what I've done every year for the last 14 years.
“The critical need for it for every player we have is for them to get a bit of sun on their back, do a little bit of light training and ease the pressure on the mind, soul and body. They will come back refreshed.
“We've already had a massive response because they have been looking forward to it so much, and now they can look forward to it even more because of what they have just achieved.”
The Hammers' barren spell in the league over Christmas and the New Year coincided with an injury nightmare for Allardyce, who had no option but to blood some of his inexperienced youngsters to make up the numbers.
Club-record signing Andy Carroll is now fit - although currently sidelined through suspension - and, with four January loan arrivals in Roger Johnson, Pablo Armero, Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello, Allardyce is pleased to have more options than at any other stage this season.
“It's very important to have a strong squad," he added.
“Having the options to come on, like the two Italians (Nocerino and Borriello) and Pablo Armero, who we haven't seen yet, is brilliant.
“It's difficult for me to change the team because we keep winning, so they have to be more patient. “I'm pleased for everybody and the squad of players we have, seeing smiles on their faces instead of the heads between their knees as we saw over Christmas.
“At the moment we're the team in form, picking up points left, right and centre. It's really pleasing because the games are starting to run out now.”