STUART Armstrong has been a fantastic servant to Southampton.

There is always an element of sadness when you see a player who has given their all depart the club.

He will leave having given supporters many brilliant moments - his tendency to score belters will live long in the memory.

As a player, he brought something different to the club. He’s a player who not only had quality but was willing to cover ground.

I still remember THAT goal he scored against Coventry City. With his first touch, he set the ball. With his next touch, he struck across the ball, bending it into the top corner.

I was on commentary for that game. I will always remember that goal.

These decisions come to every player at some stage of their career. Supporters and players are not necessarily always going to agree with those decisions.

Armstrong deserved to end his time at Saints with a Championship playoff winners medal around his neck.

However, I’m sure there will also be a level of personal disappointment that he was forced to miss the Wembley triumph through injury.

His final on-field action as a Saints player was being stretchered off at Cardiff - which is far from the ending his tenure deserves.

I’m sure he had an important role to play at Wembley, the same goes for Gavin Bazunu, although he was not able to get on the pitch.

He stayed around in the summer when many others left. And although he missed the crowning moment, he still played a vital role in this season’s promotion.

Stuart Armstrong warming up ahead of a game at St Mary'sStuart Armstrong warming up ahead of a game at St Mary's (Image: Stuart Martin)

It goes without saying that Southampton will need to replace Armstrong this summer. His role in midfield is so important.

Joe Rothwell’s loan has now come to an end. Charly Alcaraz will return this summer but didn’t look at his best under Russell Martin before his exit to Juventus in the winter.

Securing a suitable replacement is even more important given our promotion. Having a midfielder capable of consistently creating chances is crucial in the Premier League.

Although much easier said than done, the sooner Southampton sign Armstrong’s replacement, the better.

The recruitment chiefs will have already drawn up a list of targets. They should act fast to secure a signature.

Russell will want to know his best team heading into the opening game of the season. He won’t want to wait around for a key cog in the midfield.

An early signing will also give the incoming player the most time to settle into a new environment.

There is a lot to learn in this system - giving a player the best chance to thrive would be optimal.

Armstrong is not the only player to depart Southampton this summer. Four academy players, Jake Vokins, Luke Pearce, Dynel Simeu and Matt Carson have also not been retained.

Dynel Simeu is one of four academy players departing Staplewood this summerDynel Simeu is one of four academy players departing Staplewood this summer (Image: Chris Moorhouse)

I’m sure this will be a difficult time for those players who will not realise their dream of coming through the ranks and establishing themselves in the first team.

However, this can also be a good opportunity for them to establish themselves elsewhere. Sometimes, moving on is the best thing, especially if your pathway into the first team is blocked.

I’m sure the fact they are Southampton academy players will serve as a stamp of approval for other teams looking to recruit players this summer.

How many times over the years have we seen players get released by Southampton but still go on to have a successful career in the Football League?

Vokins, Pearce, Simeu and Carson need to use this setback as motivation - and I’m sure they will. Being released doesn’t mean you’re a bad player, it just means your journey at Saints has come to an end.

I would like to send my best wishes to all of the players who have departed both the men’s and women’s teams. I hope you all continue to thrive in your professional careers.