SAINTS are still a long way from achieving their goals this season on their return to the Championship for the first time since 2012. 

As set out by the ownership following relegation, the club aimed to win promotion back to the Premier League

There are still 20 games left to play this campaign and Saints are currently three points shy of the automatic promotion places.

In those remaining matches, Saints must still visit Leicester City, Ipswich Town and Leeds United. 

Russell Martin's side are, however, on the verge of something else. 

Avoiding defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at St Mary's on Saturday will see Saints go unbeaten in 19 league matches and 20 in competitions.

Daily Echo: Russell Martin has a 57.14% win rate in all competitions as Saints managerRussell Martin has a 57.14% win rate in all competitions as Saints manager (Image: PA)

This will match the club's records since joining the Football League in 1920, levelling with a run performed back in 1921-22. 

Only once in the club's 138-year all-time history have Saints been on a run that eclipses that. That was in 1896-97. 

Saints began the run named Southampton St Mary's and moved to new ground the Dell one year later in 1898. 

Propelled by Jack Farrell and Robert Buchanan goals, Saints went unbeaten in 24 in the Southern League - including the whole 1896-97 season - between March 1896 and April 1897.

In all competitions, the run ended at 21 after an FA Cup second round replay defeat to Newton Heath - now Manchester United - in February.

This run was the launching pad for Southampton's most successful period in history.

Saints won the highly competitive Southern League six times and reached two FA Cup finals. 

But with becoming a founding member of the Football League's new Third Division in 1920 came a new level of ambition. 

Promotion to the Second Division took just two seasons but Saints would have to wait until 1966 to compete in England's top tier. 

At no point in the 104 years since Southampton became Football League members have they gone 20 league games without defeat. 

Sheffield Wednesday and Martin's former side Swansea stand in the way of Saints now doing so and writing their names in the club's history. 

Daily Echo: Adam Armstrong will likely lead the team out on SaturdayAdam Armstrong will likely lead the team out on Saturday (Image: PA)

Martin, however, would almost certainly swap any such accolades for the completion of the season's objective. 

The unbeaten run has seen Saints reduce the gap to second from 11 points to three.

Incredibly, Leicester have still moved two points further away at the top. 

It has unified fractured support, who were beginning to harbour serious doubts about the club's direction after four defeats in September.

This could be the most important aspect with Saints committed to doing things the Martin - and Jason Wilcox - way.

They have the highest average possession (66.2 per cent) - in the least surprising statistic of 2024 so far.

Daily Echo: Russell Martin has given Saints a clear identity againRussell Martin has given Saints a clear identity again (Image: PA)

Saints have completed the most passes (15,679) and boast the highest passing accuracy (90 per cent) of any Championship side.

Sheffield Wednesday are no mugs and have taken more points (15) than any side other than Saints and Leicester since the start of December.

It would be 'Saintsy' to lose the run to a side managed by a former employee - Danny Rohl, who was Ralph Hasenhuttl's initial assistant. 

There is not that feeling of inevitability anymore - though. Saints have won their last seven home games in succession, scoring 19 goals.

Such a run is unlikely to inspire Saints to two FA Cup finals and six league titles again - but it has completely changed the atmsophere.