IT SEEMS very un- Saintslike, almost unnatural, to go into the last day of the season with nothing to play for.
Down the years, the first fixture most fans scan for is the final day because there is nearly always something riding on it.
It seemed for months as if this campaign’s swansong against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground would be a relegation decider.
As it turned out, it was a dead rubber.
The inquest is taking place into what has happened to Saints over the past decade and just how it came to pass that two relegations in such quick succession has seen a club so recently eighth in the Premiership and in the FA Cup final starting next season in League One on minus ten points.
It is only right that history is recorded.
It is uncomfortable reading, it feels in some ways like unnecessary grief at a time when so many problems still face the club.
But by ignoring it, to avoid our own personal discomfort, we disregard the lessons it can teach us on how to prevent this ever happening again.
While all that is taking place, it is also a time to look ahead.
The future is very uncertain, that we know.
All we can hope is that a buyer for the club is found in plenty of time to not only ensure its survival but to enable it to prosper.
Without wishing to use these column inches for off the field musings, it is vital for the on the field activities that the ownership question is settled soon.
Saints will be starting next season ten points behind everybody else and they need to hit the ground running.
If you can wipe out that deduction early on then you can still have a good season, maybe even reach the play-offs if it goes really well.
If it takes you a while to get back to zero you face a very real battle not to drop down to League Two, especially as next season Saints are in a division in which four teams get relegated.
Whoever takes over the club has to have a very clear vision for what they will do before a deal takes place. Hopefully they will have made a decision on whether Mark Wotte will remain in charge and, if not, they will have somebody else lined up.
You cannot afford to waste these valuable summer months of planning and wheeling and dealing flip-flopping about what you are going to do.
Decisive action is required if next season isn’t to be another relegation battle.
Anybody thinking they can purchase the club and then start looking at what they will do is so deluded they shouldn’t be let within 100 miles of St Mary’s.
It is clear that an overhaul is needed, a fresh look at what is required from top to bottom.
There is still much potential in the infrastructure of the club, indeed in the squad and the youngsters just below.
But it needs to be realised and any makeover, dramatic or not, needs to happen soon.
Only that way can the club truly look forward to a fresh start and begin next season with a sense of anticipation rather than trepidation.
With the big issues of the season already decided for both Saints and Forest, yesterday’s game certainly didn’t attract much anticipation – and quite deservedly as it turned out.
The match had a real end of season feel to it.
Saints always seemed as though they wanted it that little bit more than Forest. But the result summed up the season.
Saints started brightly and could have taken the lead after just a couple of minutes when Jason Euell headed against the foot of the post.
The ball was recycled and delivered to the feet of David McGoldrick but his effort went just wide from 12 yards out.
Jan-Paul Saeijs was the first to test Paul Smith in the Forest goal with a piledriver of a free-kick but it was straight at him and he fielded it comfortably enough.
Saints grabbed the lead on 16 minutes when Forest failed to attack a high ball down the pitch and allowed Adam Lallana to pick out the run of Bradley Wright-Phillips who easily finished.
Lloyd James also worked Smith with a fierce shot from the edge of the area as Saints continued to search for a second goal.
Forest weren’t without their firsthalf chances, Robert Earnshaw twice threatening before Chris Gunter got to the by-line and beat Kelvin Davis with his ball across the face of goal but saw nobody there to turn it in to an empty net.
The second half started as more of the same in terms of Saints bossing it but, with 20 minutes left, it was suddenly Forest who were creating the chances.
Forest might have levelled on 58 minutes when Guy Moussi’s chipped ball picked out Earnshaw.
He lobbed it over Davis but also over the bar, while second-half sub Joe Garner headed over five minutes later when he might have done better.
But he made no mistake on 73 minutes with an instinctive lob back over Davis from just inside the right side of the area after a high ball had bounced in the Saints box.
With three minutes remaining Saints’ miserable season got even worse when Luke Chambers headed home a right-wing corner to give Forest the lead.
Saints forced Smith into one fantastic late save but the misery was not quite complete.
In injury time Davis saved from Arron Davies but looked up to see Earnshaw on hand to sidefoot home to make it 3-1.
Somehow a meaningless match encapsulated a season.
It’s been awful, truly awful. But it’s now over and we can now look to the future.
Thankfully there is not much that can be worse than the recent past.