SAINTS’ Premier League countdown starts today.

Nigel Adkins’ double promotion winning squad will this morning report to Staplewood to begin pre-season training ahead of their much anticipated return to the top flight.

It has been a long summer break with an early finish to last season meaning the players have enjoyed 61 days of rest before starting the hard work again in earnest.

Adkins has given the squad just over seven weeks to prepare for the Premier League season, which kicks off on August 18 with the small matter of a trip to the champions Manchester City.

On their return to the club the players, including new £7m signing Jay Rodriguez who will meet his new teammates for the first time, will start pre-season with routine fitness tests to check they have stuck to their summer programmes before the hard slog gets underway.

They are largely repeating the pre-season programme of last summer which Adkins believes contributed so heavily to their success.

That will mean a week away at the Champney’s health spa before the business of pre-season friendlies gets underway.

They start with the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup on Saturday, July 14, when each player is expected to get their first 45 minutes of action with two different teams lining up to feature in the minigames against Arsenal and Anderlecht, who have replaced Rangers.

Then the squad will then jet off for a week, basing themselves on the French side of the French-Swiss border in the town of Evian-les-Bains.

There they will take on local sides Etoile Carouge and Evian Thonon Gaillard in what will be more fitness games as much as anything else.

Adkins will really start to get preparations on the pitch underway when the team return home with four friendlies to get his side fully prepared for the Premier League.

They have a St Mary’s triple header against Ajax, Wolves and Udinese with an away trip to Bristol City sandwiched in between.