SAINTS must be “aggressive” in this summer’s transfer market rather than “laying over and having their belly tickled.”

That’s the verdict delivered by ex-Dell striker Gordon Watson ahead of a summer which he describes “as the biggest the club have had for five or six years – and that is saying something.”

Watson insists Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino and chairman Ralph Krueger need to have brought in new signings prior to the World Cup starting in early June.

It is crucial for the morale of the squad that new players are brought in before any prize assets are sold, rather than the other way around.

“Saints have to be aggressive in the transfer market,” Watson declared.

“I would like to see new signings in place before the World Cup starts.

“You cannot dilly dally this summer, you cannot be seen to be laying over and having your belly tickled.

“Saints’ stock is high, their manager’s stock is high, and the players’ stock is high.

“Some of the players will be on the wish-lists of other managers.

“Saints therefore need to get new players in as early as they can, make a statement of intent to the players they have got and the manager.

“I am sure the manager would have a list of targets in his mind already.

“There are players out there.”

The horror knee injury suffered by Jay Rodriguez at Manchester City earlier this month means Pochettino, should he stay, will almost certainly look to strengthen his attack this summer.

Saints have only scored one penalty in two and a half games since Rodriguez suffered his anterior cruciate ligament injury at The Etihad, with even Rickie Lambert last week telling the Daily Echo that he wants to see a new forward brought in this summer.

“The lad Vydra (at West Brom) works well in a pair, while Watford’s Troy Deeney could be a Premier League player, he has power and pace – things we don’t have.”

Watson believes it’s important Saints strike early in the transfer market, in order to keep their players who might star in the World Cup and whose market value could rocket as a result.

“Every player outside the top six in the Premier League should want to play for Southampton,” Watson said.

“And if you are a Southampton player, you would only want to leave this club to sign for a handful of others.”

Asked about the constant speculation linking Pochettino with Tottenham, Watson remarked: “I hadn’t given it too much thought to be honest.

“I’m just enjoying the fact we’re going to finish in the top eight.

“If he did go, though, I know we would not struggle to bring in a good replacement.

“As I said, Southampton’s stock is high.”