FA CUP final star Chris Baird is being chased by a host of lower division clubs after failing to be included on Saints' pre-season tour of Sweden.

The Northern Ireland international right-back was a surprise omission from Paul Sturrock's 23-man tour party last week.

Baird's agent, Gary Williams, said his client "was very taken aback and very disappointed" to have been left behind.

The 22-year-old only signed a new two-year contract at St Mary's last month having turned down a move to Wigan earlier this year due to the change of management at Saints.

West Brom, Norwich and Watford were all interested in signing Baird before the player pledged his future to Saints.

Now Ipswich, Leicester and Stoke, as well as Watford, are all keen to take Baird out on loan.

Ipswich are believed to favour a season-long loan but Saints and/or Baird will almost certainly turn that down.

Williams explained: "Paul Sturrock had a chat with Chris and told him that although he is very much in his thoughts for first team selection, he can only take so many players to Sweden and that Jason Dodd is his first choice right-back.

"I know Paul Sturrock has talked to some First Division managers because they've been on the phone to me.

"Paul doesn't want to send Chris out on a season-long loan - he wants to be able to recall him if needed.

"But Chris doesn't want to go out on loan because he's in the middle of buying a house in Southampton and his fiancee is pregnant.

"Chris was looking forward to pre-season with Southampton and trying to force his way into the manager's plans, and that's what he will continue to do.

"He wants to stay at Saints."

Baird has only ever made three starts for Saints - including the 2003 FA Cup final against Arsenal in which he impressed - with five sub appearances as well.

His only other starts were at Manchester City the week before the Cup final and at home to Arsenal again last December.

Last season he spent successful loan spells at Walsall and Watford in the First Division.

He made his Northern Ireland debut the week after his impressive performance in Cardiff and a regular spot during 2003/04 has left him with 11 caps to his name.

Williams added: "Last season I was getting promising pre-season reports about Chris and then Gordon Strachan left him out.

"Now I'm hearing the same promising pre-season reports, and he's been left out again.

"It does seem surprising to me."