SAINTS defender Ryan Bertrand is looking forward to reuniting with Matt Targett on Saturday.

Targett left St Mary’s in the summer to join Aston Villa for £15m, ending his 15-year association with the south coast club.

During his time at St Mary’s, he found it difficult to usurp Bertrand in the left-back role which led to him moving on to secure regular playing time.

And with the two teams poised to meet at Villa Park this weekend, Saints’ current defender had only good things to say about the bond the duo shared.

“It’s [our relationship] good. He is a very good young player and he had the opportunity to go there and play more consistently,” Bertrand told the Daily Echo.

“It’s a fantastic club to go and do that at. He is showing that, and he is doing really well.

“We would talk openly, which I think is the best thing.

“You get a relationship because, at the end of the day, the players don’t pick the team, so there is never any bad energy between the two.

“It’s important you talk together and grow together, and I think we done that.

“Even though he wasn’t playing, he was developing and found a moment when he could go and found a good club.”

Bertrand will be all too familiar with Villa Park on Saturday, with it being his penultimate loan destination before joining Saints permanently in 2015.

The Champions League winner opted to join a St Mary’s side that was led by former boss Ronald Koeman.

This coincided with unprecedented success on the south coast, with regular top-ten finishes and Europa League football.

Since then, Saints have found themselves battling against relegation, with Bertrand suggesting it’s taken them a while to get over the Dutchman’s 2016 departure.

Asked whether he had the option to sign for Villa instead of Saints, the defender said: “I think there was the option but at the time Southampton were a very progressive club.

“We had Ronald [Koeman] and Paul Mitchell recruiting.

“I met with Ronald and the club’s direction was clear from top to bottom. We had clear principles, a clear philosophy and a clear direction.

“My mind was made up as soon as we had that conversation and that’s when I joined, and we had some fantastic seasons.”

On the hangover since Koeman left, Bertrand added: “I think when you’ve achieved such success that we achieved, we were three points off the Champions League one year.

“Even before I came, they finished eighth, then sixth or something like that.

“We were finishing high and getting European football and, inevitably, that will be hard to sustain.

“In that moment where we had to change and sustain when Ronald left, it’s tough. We probably took a bit too long to adjust and hopefully we can get back there.”

Being one of the senior members inside the Saints dressing room, Bertrand’s experience carries a certain weight.

First team players such as Michael Obafemi, close friend Nathan Redmond and Jack Stephens all look up to the 30-year-old left-back.

Due to the club going through a difficult time at the wrong end of the table, Bertrand knows how important it is to try and remain positive in the hope it rubs off on those around him.

“In the hard times, it’s important to stay positive, shine a light on bad situations, to stay militant and to remain fully focused on the task at hand and encourage the boys,” reflected the former Chelsea player.

“It’s just normal for me to be honest.

“It’s a role I do and it’s the only way to do things in my eyes.”