Southampton chief Russell Martin gives honest answer to Leeds United play-off final question

Southampton manager Russell Martin applauds the fans following their win over West Brom -Credit:PA
Southampton manager Russell Martin applauds the fans following their win over West Brom -Credit:PA

Southampton boss Russell Martin expects there to be plenty of nerves next week in the build up to their Championship play-off final against Leeds United. The Saints will head to Wembley on May 26 in good spirits following an impressive 3-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.

Will Smallbone and Adam Armstrong (2) scored the goals in a stylish second-half display to put Southampton 90 minutes away from a Premier League return. Martin, whose side beat United twice in the regular season, said: "I think it's going to be a really top game of football. It's going to be one to look forward to and to also feel a lot of butterflies and nerves throughout the week. We have to manage that with the players and staff. The players deserve that.

"They deserve the opportunity because of how brave they've been, how much belief and understanding they have now and what they're doing, how much they've stuck with it even when it's been a bit bumpy at times.

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"I said that from day one, it wasn't going to be easy to change a style of play and a culture and a club that had a tough, tough year the year before.

"They've deserved the opportunity, they've earned it. They've earned every single bit of it and now they have to really make the most of it. Tonight was a beautiful moment for us.

"We've had so many here this season. The fans were incredible but we have a chance to have a better moment next week. So we have to make sure that's the case."

Martin praised the St Mary's crowd for producing the "best atmosphere" to inspire his team. "They were amazing, they really played their part tonight so I'm really grateful to the supporters for that," he said.

"Honestly, it was incredible. A lot of emotional people on the bus seeing that on the way in really set the tone.

"It made the team talk really easy. So, yeah, really good night. I'm proud of the players. They showed so much courage to play football in the way we played.

"They were, honestly, at times, brilliant and beautiful against such a good opponent. In the second half, I think we got better as the game went on.

"I think we deserve to win tonight on that performance. Now the challenge is to do that again on the biggest stage and to bring that courage and aggression and to be themselves - the team we want to be."