FORMER Saints and England icon Kevin Keegan has backed Danny Ings to come good next season.

Ings suffered an up-and-down first year on the south coast after struggling with a number of injuries.

Despite being ruled out for large parts of the season, the former Liverpool ace still managed to bag eight goals, which was one less than top scorer Nathan Redmond.

And Keegan, who knows what it takes to score at the highest level, is convinced Ings will come good this year.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Keegan said: “He has never really had a good run at it and that’s the problem.

“When you play and pick up injuries, you never quite get up to match speed.

“He is obviously a very talented player to score goals at that level because he has done it before at Liverpool.

“He needs a bit of luck now and a run.

“I was lucky because I didn’t get many injuries. One of my worst injuries was when I was here and did my hamstring which isn’t a bad injury, but it knocked me back for six weeks.

“He has had injuries that have knocked him back for five months which is half a year and almost the entire season.

“When you have been out for three or four months, and you go back in the team, you are playing against guys who have been playing every week without any interruptions in their training.

“You are coming back in and you know you haven’t done it in a while and that you may not be 100 per cent match fit.

“There is a difference between being fit and being match fit.

“You can be fit and do all the running in the world but when you play a match and make the first two or three runs, you think, ‘Wow’.

“It’s the pressure of the game, the pressure of the fact you’ve been out a while and you don’t want to go and get injured again. It’s human nature for it to be in the back of your mind.

“Once he gets a run of games and starts scoring the goals, then the confidence will return and that’s what strikers really want.

“The more you play, the more opportunities you will get - and he will get plenty of those in that Southampton squad.”

Keegan joined Saints in a surprise deal when former manager and club legend Lawrie McMenemy convinced him to join the club from Hamburg in 1980.

The striker had just won European Player of the Year before arriving on the south coast and hit the ground running at The Dell.

Keegan netted 37 times for Saints during a two-year spell that saw him play 68 times.

And even though he has represented Liverpool, Hamburg and Newcastle, the ex-England star always looks back at his time with Saints as one of the happiest spells of his career.

“It was a magical two years,” Keegan continued.

“I played with a lot of my friends. Mick Channon was one of my biggest mates and then Alan Ball.

“I was at the stage of my career where I had won things with Liverpool and Hamburg, so I wanted to come to a club where I enjoyed my football and I certainly did that.

“For the time I was here, we played some great football and had some really exciting kids such as Steve Moran and Stevie Williams.

“We had a couple of good foreign players in Ivan Golac and Ivan Katalinic.

“We started to bring in some really good old pros like Dave Watson, Chris Nicholl, Charlie George and, of course, Bally was outstanding. I think he was mid-30s when he came, but he was still the best.”

Keegan’s transfer to Saints from Hamburg was one of football’s best-kept secrets at the time.

McMenemy had brokered the deal and invited the media to an unveiling which caused everyone present to stand up and applaud when Keegan walked through the door.

Liverpool had first dibs on the striker but decided against signing him.

That left the door open for Saints to shock the footballing world and secure his services on a three-year contract.

“I signed another year in Hamburg and fixed my fee at £500,000 so I could go where I wanted to go and not where the fee dictated.

“If I didn’t have that clause in my contract, I wouldn’t have come to Southampton because there were bigger teams who wanted me.

“I had the choice and my mates were here. I always knew The Dell was tough to play in and I wanted to come down here.

“We beat Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool down there – we could beat them all at The Dell. We beat Liverpool at Liverpool once which is never easy.

“I probably knew the chances of winning things here were less as Southampton aren’t the biggest club, but I just wanted to enjoy playing football.”

In Keegan’s first season at The Dell, Saints finished sixth in the league. In his second and final year, the club ended with a seventh-place finish.

This prompted the striker to believe that the club were no longer progressing the way he would have liked.

Newcastle started sniffing around and saw an opportunity to bring the ace to St. James’ Park.

It meant that he had to drop down a league but admitted he was more than happy to do that in order to prolong his career.

Keegan added: “We had two years here and we weren’t really going forward I didn’t think.

“I got this chance to finish my career at my father’s club because he was a Geordie and I enjoyed playing there because of the atmosphere.

“I was also moving down a division because if you want to play up front at 32, the division below is a little bit easier to be honest.”

Having left Saints nearly four decades ago, Keegan revealed he still keeps a close eye on them.

He has been impressed with the impact manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has had in the short space of time that he has been in charge at St Mary’s.

After being embroiled in relegation battles for the last two season, Keegan believes the club need to gain a realistic expectation of where they can finish in the league.

And, with Hasenhuttl in charge, Keegan reckons a place in the top-10 is not beyond the realms of possibility.

“They have got a good manager now who is getting the best out of them,” explained the football icon.

“They looked at one time that they might be in danger of going down but in the end, I thought they were quite comfortable.

“You knew with four or five games to spare that they probably weren’t going to go down.

“Now it’s a case of building and having a realistic expectation.

“If you are Southampton, you are not going to finish in the top-six very easily, but you are certainly capable of finish from seventh down to 14th.

“That will be the aim next year but it’s never easy. Look at some of the players they have sold, I think Liverpool have about three or four of them.

“You can’t be a feeder club and then compete straight away by replacing your best players with kids, it takes time.”

After retiring from football, Keegan tried his arm at management.

His managerial career saw him take charge at Newcastle and England to name just two of his former sides.

However, when questioned whether he fancies a return to the dugout, Keegan responded: “It's not for me - I’m 70 next year!

“It’s different to when I managed because these are coaches now and it’s a different thing.

“I managed, and Lawrie managed. We went to watch the players and it’s all videos now, it’s just not the same.

“It’s probably easier in some ways because they don’t have to get into a car and drive five hours to watch a game where the player might not play when you get there.

“You are coming back in the car thinking, ‘Why the hell did we go there?’.

“They don’t have that problem now, it’s all scientific which is probably important now in the world of football.

“I just enjoyed my time and that was the main thing.”

Kevin Keegan was speaking at Lawrie McMenemy’s annual golf day which was in aid of Autism Hampshire and sponsored by Meachers Global Logistics.