SAINTS boss Ralph Hasenhutt signed a new four-year contract and declared it was a "simple decision".

The Austrian arrived at St Mary's back in December 2018 to replace the sacked Mark Hughes and his new deal will keep him on the South Coast until at least 2024.

Hasenhuttl then helped maintain Saints' Premier League safety before embarking on his first full campaign in charge.

Hasenhuttl said: “This, for me, was a simple decision.

"Simple because of the relationship that I have built with the club, the players and the fans, and also because of the relationship they have built with me too.

“I said when I arrived at the club that we were at the beginning of a long journey, and also a journey that would bring emotion and hopefully enjoyment.

"We have already had some moments where we could celebrate together, and some that have been emotional and also challenging.

“The way we have handled this together as a group of people has been incredible for me, and I believe we now have strong foundations here that can allow us to take the next steps in our progress as a team.

“For me, this is an important step in the journey. My players, our staff, and of course the supporters must understand my commitment to this club and to what we are trying to build together.

“We value the same philosophies, and this is a big part of why I want to stay here, and I hope we can share in some very successful moments moving forward.”

Assistant coach Richard Kitzbichler, who replaced Danny Rohl, has also extended his contract in line with Hasenhuttl's.

Hasenhuttl previously made it clear that any new contracts wouldn't be discussed until his side hit 36 Premier League points.

But the break brought about by the coronavirus crisis has given both parties time to sit down and thrash out a deal.

Hasenhuttl has always said he wants to repay the club for backing him after their 9-0 defeat to Leicester at St Mary’s back in October.

When the coronavirus crisis led to professional sport being placed on pause, Hasenhuttl, who returned to Munich, Germany, got to work developing the SFC Playbook.

This, he hopes, will have a long-lasting impact on the club’s academy in the sense that all age groups will be playing the same brand of football as the first team.

Hasenhuttl spent hours compiling footage to create an archive of training sessions that can be easily followed by other coaches at the club.

After a slow start to the season, the Saints boss guided the club away from the relegation zone after wins against Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester in quick succession.

Speaking about Hasenhuttl's new deal, Martin Semmens, Saints' chief executive, said: “From day one, Ralph has had a positive impact on the club, everyone within it and our fans.

"He joined our club at a time when strong leadership was needed to drive the club forward.  This he delivered, but it was the clarity of vision that has ultimately led us to this point.

“It is clear to me that Ralph believes in this club and is passionate about the project we have ahead of us.  

"He understood who we are very quickly, and over the last six months has developed a vision for the club that we believe will lead us back to success on the pitch.

"A new philosophy on the pitch, but very much rooted in our values and history.  

“To be competitive within the Premier League you simply cannot stand still. We need a clear plan that is rooted in hard work and the development of young players on and off the pitch.

"Ralph brings to us experience of winning, but more than that, an absolute commitment to his philosophy and the development of all age groups at the club.

“To witness first-hand the recovery of the first team around Christmas under his clear leadership has given us all a template of how to drive the club forward.

"It is important now that the club, led by our Director of Football Operations Matt Crocker, put in place all the support structures around Ralph to produce success, not just for the remaining nine games of this season, but into the long term future of the club.

“There has never been any question in my mind that Ralph is the right man to lead our club, and I look forward to working in partnership with him over the next four years. I know there is no one who will work harder to bring success back for our fans.”