MARIAN Pahars didn't think he'd be able to forge a career at Saints.

The former Latvian international joined the club back in March 1999 after bagging a perfect hat-trick against Oxford United during a trial match.

Saints snapped him up for £800,000 and he made his debut a month later away to Coventry City, which is when he questioned his future on the south coast.

Speaking to Planet Football, Pahars said: “I came on 15 minutes before the end of the game and it was just pure stress.

“I was too nervous. I just didn’t feel comfortable. I received the ball two times during that 15 minutes and lost it both times. My debut was very ugly.

“I felt like, ‘How am I going to play here?’ It was just impossible. The ball was flying all over the place and I couldn’t find it.

“Everything was so difficult and so quick. The next game I didn’t even make the bench.

“But then I came on against Blackburn at home. We were losing 3-2 and I scored the equaliser. That goal changed my football life in England.”

It didn't take long for Pahars to become a fans' favourite, with the Latvian forging an excellent relationship with local lad James Beattie up front.

The 42-year-old went on to make 137 appearances for Saints over a seven-year spell.

During this time, he netted 43 times, including a beautiful strike against fierce rivals Portsmouth.

And his record in front of goal is something the Latvian hasn't forgotten.

“I remember all my goals very well. I think in terms of the most beautiful goal it was the one against Derby at home,” he continued.

“I didn’t score outside the penalty area very often so to score from 25, 30 yards was a screamer. That was probably my favourite.”

Pahars' Saints career started to become hampered by issues with his ankle which brought his time on the south coast to a premature end.

And with this in mind, the former Skento forward admitted the injuries led him to some dark places.

He added: “Of course that affected my life.

“When suddenly you cannot do your job and you’re not enjoying football itself, then you get depressed. You start to feel uncomfortable.

“For me it was a long time, so I had to adapt to living without any disappointment or fear anymore. But during that time, of course, I was depressed.

“It was a difficult time. It took the most important thing in your life from you. It was like losing somebody.

“But there are no regrets for me. That was my destiny and I think I did enough, even during a short time, to be remembered and feel that I made a mark at Southampton. For me it’s one great big memory. I don’t think about these injuries or whatever.”

George Burley was in charge at the time and took the option not to renew the former Saints forward's contract.

He was just two-and-a-half-years shy of earning the right to have a testimonial at St Mary's.

And although he was disappointed, Pahars admitted he didn't once consider playing for another English club.

“My contract was finishing and they didn’t renew it,” explained Pahars.

“The new manager came and he decided that I had to leave. I wanted to stay. I wanted to play almost for free in order to stay because it was my dream to play a testimonial at Southampton and I needed another two and a half years.

“But he didn’t want to listen. That’s okay. It’s his decision at the end of the day and I was injured quite a lot. That’s life. That’s football.

“It was just one big emotion. Very difficult. I still remember that now. It was difficult to take. That’s why I didn’t want to stay anywhere else in England.

“I just wanted to get away from the UK because I couldn’t imagine myself playing for anyone else.”