FORMER Saints forward Alan Shearer and former England international Gary Lineker have both backed Southampton to win the Championship playoffs.

Shearer, who launched his successful playing career on the south coast, admitted he is hoping Saints can return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Russell Martin's side take on West Brom in the playoff semi-finals, starting with an away trip to the Hawthorns on Sunday, May 12.

Asked who he is backing to join Leicester City and Ipswich Town in the Premier League next season, Shearer picked his former side.

Speaking on 'The Rest Is Football' he said: "They've had a good run and I would think Southampton, but it's not always that easy.

"There is always a story that comes out of the playoffs. I really hope for Southampton.

"I spent a few years down there and loved it. They are a really good club. I hope Southampton (can get promoted)."

Daily Echo:

Lineker agreed, adding: "I fancy Southampton as well. They've hit a bit of form again at the right time."

Ex-Manchester City defender Micah Richards was in disagreement with the two retired forwards and feels Leeds United will win at Wembley on May 26.

He concluded: "I think they have underperformed in the last couple of weeks. They went on that amazing run and then fizzled out.

"The reason I say Leeds is because, in the forward areas, they have the most quality if they get things right.

"You have got to put that bad run to bed now. The playoffs are a completely different thing, it's a fresh chance now."