As Southampton prepare to kick off their latest pre-season campaign, captain James Ward-Prowse says they will do so with their eyes focused very much on moving further up the Premier League table in 2020/21.
Saints produced a spectacular run of form to finish the most recent season, taking points from eight of their final nine matches following the restart, as they finished in 11th place.
With optimism high as the players return to Staplewood Campus, Ward-Prowse is hopeful of even better times ahead in 2020/21.
james ward-prowsei really feel that it's an exciting period for us.
“It was a tough season with lots of ups and downs, but that's the life of a footballer,” said the midfielder, who this week signed a new five-year contract with the club. “You have these good experiences and also bad ones that you have to learn from.
“Having been at the club a long time, you see the ups of the Europa League and finishing inside the top ten, and you then contrast it to relegation battles and a different kind of pressure, and I feel as though we're in a real good situation of looking up the table now.
“As a player in the team now I can take those experiences of both the bad and the good and use it to hopefully help drive us up the league.”
Ward-Prowse will head into the new season having played every minute of Premier League action during 2019/20.
You might think that, with such a short turnaround between campaigns, the 25-year-old would have been grateful for a longer break, but that is not the case.
"As a player you want to improve year-on-year and you want to have an impact on the team,” he said. “I always wanted to play week-in and week-out, to be a regular, and I definitely did that last season.
"It's strange to think you can do all that and only have a small window of time off, but, for me, I love football, I love working hard and putting in that sort of effort, so after the sort of ten days or so I had of just relaxing I was quite eager to get back to running.
“It's a great stat to have and the way we play with the manager is a physically-demanding way, but it's an exciting one because we're taking the game to the opposition, we want to be aggressive, and as a player that's what you want to be part of.”
Speaking about the return to Staplewood for pre-season, Ward-Prowse added: “It's like the first day of school again. You all sort of get back in and catch up on your holidays and what you've been up to. But, like I touched on before, not just within the team but the club I really feel that it's an exciting period for us.”