The theme of Nigel Adkins’ press conference yesterday was “moving on”, but letting go of Saints is clearly not proving as easy as the club’s former manager was attempting to make out.

On a number of occasions during his meeting with the media, the new Reading boss had to stop and correct himself after referring to Saints as “we” or talking about their fans as “our supporters”.

A Royals tracksuit might now adorn his body, but Saints has not yet left his blood. It seems doubtful that it ever will.

The end to his St Mary’s career will always, for Adkins, feel far too premature.

“I loved my time at Southampton,” he said, two-and-a-half months on from his controversial sacking. “I was proud, privileged and honoured to be the manager of Southampton, we were on a fantastic journey.

“Even now, the amount of letters I’ve received, emails I’ve received, it’s been really heartwarming and touching. It’s been great the journey that we’ve been on and I’ll never, ever forget that.

“That can never, ever be taken away, it will never, ever go away from my heart, but I need to be positive and move on. That’s why I’m delighted to be here at Reading now.”

Much of Adkins’ press conference would have sounded familiar to Saints fans.

There was the almost obligatory reference to Sun Tzu and the Art of War, a couple of trademark quotes (“We’re the strongest team in the division, holding everybody up.”), a big smile and a couple of laughs.

Adkins was relentlessly positive and generally at ease, certainly more so than he was at times when speaking as Saints boss.

The only points when he tensed were when the issue of his departure from St Mary’s was brought up.

Adkins is keen to avoid controversy at the best of times and, with the League Managers Association acting on his behalf in a bid to resolve his outstanding issues with Saints, there is little he can say.

“Listen, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not get involved in the conversations,” he politely pleaded at one point.

Adkins, as always, was rather more keen to focus on the positives, particularly his affinity with the Saints supporters.

“I had a great relationship with them and I don’t expect that to be any different at the weekend,” he said, when asked what reception he expects.

“But, likewise, they have to get behind Southampton Football Club and drive their team on.”

As the inquisition wore on, Adkins became happier to open up about his time at the club, his affection for it, and the people he left behind.

“I had a fantastic time and that can never be taken away and I’ll always keep my eye on the players, because you want them to do well,” he said.

“We were a close group and we were very successful together, and you’ve seen the players flourish and evolve and it’s great to see that journey they’ve been on as well.

“So I’ll always speak highly of them.”

Adkins added: “We were with the players for two-and-a-half years, we were very successful in that two-and-a-half year spell and they play some good football.

“It’s a joy to watch them play, and the professionalism of the players, they’ve earned the right to be where they are because they’ve gone and worked so, so hard to be where they are.

“I think all the players at Southampton deserve a lot of credit for that.”

While many will feel that Adkins will this weekend be out to prove a point to Saints chairman Nicola Cortese, who ruthlessly dispensed with him in January, the man himself takes no such view.

“I don’t think that’s the case whatsoever,” he said.

“The situation has happened and what we have to do is move on. We had a fantastic journey there and that can never be taken away. Situations happen in life and in football. What you’ve got to do is move on.”

Adkins, unsurprisingly, remains dignified to the end. He will certainly be respectful to the man who replaced him at the helm, Mauricio Pochettino, when he arrives at the stadium tomorrow.

“I have already done it in my programme notes, we have welcomed the opposition management to the Madejski and, like every opposition team, we always invite them in for a drink afterwards, win, lose or draw,” he said. “I think that is important.”

One point Adkins was able to clarify about his departure from Saints was the message that was found at the club’s training ground, telling the players to “keep smiling, have faith and belief that you are doing the right thing, keep looking to improve.”

The note, which emerged on Twitter after a first-team analyst who has since left the club posted a picture of it, was said to have been left by Adkins.

But the Reading manager said it was not his.

“No. It was actually in one of the coaches’ rooms during the course of the week,” he explained.

“It wasn’t my management room, it was somebody else’s writing, and it was in the coach’s room on a different file somewhere out the way.”

Perhaps, though, the greatest message Adkins leaves to the Saints players and supporters is that he still cannot stop referring to them as “we”.