THERE were jubilant scenes at St Mary’s eight years ago as Saints made a joyful return to the Premier League.

For the second season in a row, the turf was covered by a sea of ecstatic Saints fans as their beloved team made their way back to the big time via a 4-0 thumping of Coventry City, who were headed in the other direction.

Hero striker Rickie Lambert was held aloft on the shoulders of fans amid memorable red and white scenes on the afternoon of Saturday April 28, 2012.

It was the ultimate celebration of an incredible season of achievements.

If there was a tinge of disappointment that Saints didn’t make it out of League One with a title in the cabinet, there should be no such feelings this time round.

Were it not for Reading’s remarkable run, Saints would have bagged the Championship crown.

But in this division the most important thing is promotion to the elite, in the cash rich mega division.

It was the best way to go up, in front of a record-breaking St Mary’s crowd, rather than in front of just a few thousand Saints fans at Middlesbrough the previous weekend or, even worse, just sat watching the TV the previous Monday night and hoping West Ham lost.

Had the last game not been against Coventry at home, we might have just wanted it over.

But such was the certainty in the minds of many that Saints would triumph, and emphatically so, that this was always going to be a promotion winning party day.

It was a flying, buzzing club with an expensive squad against an already demoted, financially weak and struggling club.

To say it was men against boys would quite literally be true in most cases, such was Coventry’s lack of players that they were having to field a host of teenagers with little first team experience between them.

Winning a more competitive game might have added to the occasion even more, but for most Saints fans the fact they could celebrate knowing they were promoted after just 19 minutes was probably quite enough.

Coventry did capitalise on some early Saints nerves to force Kelvin Davis into a save as he turned behind Gary McSheffrey’s effort.

But it took just 16 minutes for all those nerves to be settled.

Jose Fonte picked a great game to produce his best performance of the season and broke forward with the ball, feeding it into Guly do Prado on the right.

The Brazilian curled it back to Adam Lallana on the edge of the area and his first time volley was deflected home via a slight touch off Billy Sharp.

Just three minutes later it was game over as Danny Fox’s looping, outswinging corner found Fonte criminally unmarked.

He put in a diving header that fired down into the turf and bounced up over the head of the man on the post.

After that point, it was largely a Saints promotion parade.

Coventry didn’t stop trying and Davis did have to make a couple more saves, but it only ever felt like a matter of how many more Saints would get.

The answer was to be two. The first of those was on 59 minutes and from another Fox corner, this time driven in low, not cleared by the Coventry defence and the ball falling to Jos Hooiveld in the six yard box. He showed a striker’s instinct to quickly swivel and get in a shot that made it 3-0.

Just four minutes later it was four via a classic Saints move that they have used so often this season. Jack Cork slung in was a high, hanging cross from the right, Rickie Lambert rose highest to win a far post header and nodded it back across goal, and there was Lallana to finish it off.

After that moment you sensed the Saints players were on cruise control, desperately trying to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the moment.

It’s not often you know you are promoted with so long to play and, with these moments come so rarely in a career, you couldn’t blame them, When the final whistle went it was scenes of total joy on the pitch.

Speaking about the memorable day Nigel Adkins, who was Saints manager at the time, said: “Lifting the mood on a rainy day in Hampshire. Emotional happy memories of a proud day eight years ago for all connected with Southampton FC.”

You finish where you deserve to, and for Saints that means a Premier League place the following season.

There have been eight seasons of ups and downs since, but on the whole it’s been a top flight ride and a half.

There have been four consecutive top eight finishes and two European tours - most memorably to Be’er Sheva in Israel for the club’s furthest ever journey for a competitive fixture and Milan, where thousands saw Saints take on Inter at the San Siro.

Saints took on Manchester United in the EFL Cup Final in 2017 in a repeat of the famous FA Cup fixture of 1976. Unfortunately, United took the spoils this time, but it was a memorable day out for Saints fans, who had not graced the big stage at Wembley Stadium since their triumphant Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Victory in 2010, but returned for an FA Cup semi final against Chelsea just a year later in 2018.

We’ve sold the world’s most expensive defender Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool - among a raft of other players - and recorded a memorable victory over rivals Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup earlier in a season which has now been halted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It's certainly never dull being a Saints fan and the sight of a beaming Southampton legend crowd surfing over a sea of red and white will live long in the memory.