JIMMY Case says he has been on the end of more ‘Liverhampton’ jibes than anyone as he looks forward to tomorrow’s clash between his former clubs at St Mary’s.

Anfield legend Case lives in Chandlers Ford so often finds himself defending Liverpool’s signing of six Saints players in five years.

They include two of the Premier League’s best players this season in Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mané.

Liverpool’s £170m spree on Saints players began in the summer of 2014 with the acquisitions of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert.

Then Nathaniel Clyne went for £12.5m in 2015. Mané’s £34m move in 2016 was another blow but Van Dijk’s eventual departure for £75m 15 months ago was the most acrimonious.

Case, who has been to every Liverpool home game this season, has been on the wrong end of the ‘Liverhampton’ taunts ever since.

“I get more stick than anybody!” he laughs.

“When I go to watch a game in the pub I get told it’s me that’s nicking all Southampton’s players!

“But it’s not about ‘nicking’ players. Southampton have had good money for them and should be able to get suitable replacements. “They have to reinvest the money in players, that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s no use Southampton fans complaining to me in the pub about Liverpool ‘nicking’ another of our players.

“It’s just like selling a car - you’ve got the money, go and get yourself another car.”

Van Dijk and Mané have been two of the stars in an outstanding Liverpool team this season.

“Firmino has had his moments, he creates things out of nothing, but Van Dijk’s put in some great performances,” continued Case.

“Since he’s come in it looks like we have a defence, we very rarely lose our composure.

“Whereas beforehand, if teams got a goal back we would be under pressure.

“We’ve done well to keep the goals out through Van Dijk’s ability, the goalkeeper coming in and getting a settled defence.

“Mané’s also been great, especially of late, with 11 goals in his last 12 games. Liverpool have a resilience about them that helps them get late goals as they did [against Spurs] at the weekend.

“The belief is there in the squad, they’re mentally strong.”

Daily Echo: Jimmy Case (left) in action during Liverpool's 1-0 win against Bruges in the 1978 European Cup final at WembleyJimmy Case (left) in action during Liverpool's 1-0 win against Bruges in the 1978 European Cup final at Wembley

Case, who won the European Cup three times with Liverpool before captaining Saints during a six-year spell at The Dell from 1985, has also been impressed with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s impact at St Mary’s.

“They’ve got the confidence now,” he said.

“I don’t think they’re going to beat Liverpool but Southampton just need a few extra points in the run-in.

“They’ll be good enough to stay up, but I’m not saying they’ve done enough because the wheels can still fall off.

“They’ve got some difficult away games to come but they’ve still got three home games left after Liverpool - and the last one’s against Huddersfield.

“The manager’s turned it around and [Nathan] Redmond and James [Ward-Prowse] seem to be different players of late.

“They can both do the extraordinary and the team is gelling. They’re organised and they’re hard to beat. No doubt they’ll be like that on Friday. But if one or two are out of sorts Liverpool will turn them over.”

Daily Echo: Jimmy Case was Saints' player of the year in 1990Jimmy Case was Saints' player of the year in 1990

It is in Liverpool’s favour that Danny Ings is not available to play against his parent club.

“I felt sorry for Danny, when he got injured everything bypassed him at Liverpool,” continued Case.

“He’s a great player who works ever so hard for the team. I’m sure he’ll get his rewards.

“I just hope it’s a good game for both sets of supporters.

“I was born in Liverpool so that’s where my allegiance lies. I’ve supported them all my life and if they win they’re a step closer to the title.

“But there’ll be a few twists and turns before the end of the season.

“When Liverpool are on song they’re unstoppable but it’s been hit or miss for them of late. They struggled at Fulham before winning 2-1 there.

“Teams have been trying to stifle them and then hit them on the break, even away from home, and that will probably be the case at St Mary’s as well.

“But I’m not saying it’s over if they lose on Friday.

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