“It’s a great opportunity to go on a run. It’s something we are going to take very seriously.”
Those are the words uttered by Saints captain Jose Fonte in today’s Southern Daily Echo, and every supporter wants to believe them.
The memories of last season’s two domestic cup exits in Sunderland, when Mauricio Pochettino fielded below strength sides and paid the price, are still fresh in the minds.
We got the impression with Pochettino that he didn’t care much for the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup.
Indeed, he couldn’t even be bothered to bring his interpreter with him to either the pre match or post match press conferences, instead sending assistant Jesus Perez.
While his reluctance to field his first choice side in the League Cup was hardly at odds with most of his top flight counterparts, the decision not to take an FA Cup fifth round tie seriously brought him widespread (and well deserved) criticism from supporters.
At the time, Saints were obviously safe in the league. Pochettino was offered the perfect chance to have a real go at the FA Cup – and he shamefully refused to take it.
I wrote last season that Saints are not yet big enough to treat the League Cup or the FA Cup with anything resembling contempt.
That still remains the case.
Clubs like Swansea, Sunderland, Hull and Wigan have reached a domestic cup final at Wembley in the last two seasons, and no doubt all their fans enjoyed the occasion.
If those clubs can take the competitions seriously, so should Saints.
Saints have only reached the League Cup final once since the tournament started in the early 1960s, and that was way back in 1979.
The last decade has seen a succession of miserable exits at the likes of Mansfield, Notts County, Peterborough, Watford, Rotherham and Leeds – all lower division clubs at the time.
Saints are therefore long overdue a decent run in the League Cup, which lest we forget brings with it a Europa League place.
Ok, it’s not the Champions League but let’s be realistic here.
The League Cup and the FA Cup provide possibly Saints’ best avenues into Europe, and as a result they should not be treated lightly.
We wait with interest to see whether Ronald Koeman understands that more than his predecessor ....