NICOLA Cortese has described the gap between Saints and the top of League One as “simply too big”.

But the Saints chairman has denied there has ever been any rift with manager Alan Pardew over the team’s results or position.

However, Cortese has once again underlined his desire to reach the playoffs at the end of the season – something Saints were 16 points short of going into today’s match against Leeds.

Cortese said that is not good enough, given the amount of money that has been spent on the team.

In total this season, Saints are thought to have shelled out about £3m on transfers.

Cortese does not believe the ten-point deduction Saints started the season with should be an excuse for not making the playoffs.

“If you go back to the beginning of the season, Southampton were probably not in a much different position than Norwich or Charlton, with the difference that we started on minus ten points,” he said.

“But Norwich or Charlton had no money to spend in the window.

“We all know what we spent.

“Now we are approximately 30 points behind Norwich and 20 points behind Charlton.

“I think that gap is simply too big.”

Cortese said both he and manager Alan Pardew were of the opinion that the amount spent in January – around £2m – meant the playoffs had to become their target for the campaign.

“We spent quite a considerable amount of money in the transfer window,” he said.

“Simply, when you do that automatically your expectations change.

“When the manager comes to ask me about buying players, we also talk about what we are going to end up with when we are buying those players.

“So we were always on the same page with what we want to achieve."

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