Nigel Adkins ready for top flight with Southampton - McMenemy

By Nabil HassanBBC Sport

In guiding Southampton back to the Premier League after a seven-year absence, manager Nigel Adkins has succeeded where many before him failed.

Following promotion from League One last season, his side's form in this year's Championship has been outstanding.

Saints have not been outside the top two and, during the final tense few weeks of the campaign, he remained a calm and dignified figure until Saturday's result ensured promotion.

Way back in 1978 Lawrie McMenemy won promotion to the top flight with Southampton - the last person to achieve the feat with the club until Adkins - and the 75-year-old is full of admiration for the current manager's achievements.

"I'm delighted to see how well Nigel has done. Promotion last year was not unexpected but to stay in the top two through this season is fantastic," McMenemy told BBC Sport.

"Any manager that gets a club promoted deserves credit because they certainly get the blame when things go wrong.

"He has done very well. Nigel, like I did, cut his teeth at a lower level and I think that is always a good sign. It is difficult when clubs appoint managers who have only just finished being top-class players and go straight in."

Adkins finally gets a crack at the big time after nine years in management, first at Bangor City, later at Scunthorpe and, since 2010, with Saints.

He used all his experience over the closing weeks of the season to keep a lid on growing expectation and take the pressure off his players.

And McMenemy is adamant that experience proved crucial as Saints stumbled over the closing weeks of the campaign, losing against Reading and Middlesbrough before clinching promotion with a 4-0 victory over Coventry on the final day of the season.

"Managers need experience and need to serve their apprenticeship and Nigel has done that at Scunthorpe," McMenemy added. "He has won promotion and suffered relegations, but both teach you things. He will be very excited to be trying his luck against the big boys in the Premier League."

Now they have won promotion the former England assistant manager thinks significant investment is needed for Southampton to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.

"Reality will set in with the staff within a couple of weeks. They will want to stay up and will start planning accordingly," McMenemy said.

"They cannot cope in the Premier League. But I'm not just saying that about Southampton - I am saying that about any side that goes up.

"If any promoted team can avoid relegation in their first season they have done very well. It's a terrific tussle to stay in the Premier League and Saints will need to invest a fair proportion of the money they are earning as a result of promotion to stay in there."

Still, McMenemy feels the current Southampton squad has the nucleus of a Premier League side.

"Undoubtedly, every club requires a fantastic spine to the team and Saints have had that," he added.

"Kelvin Davis, the goalkeeper, has had a first-class season, Jose Fonte has always been steady and can definitely play at a higher level, as can Jos Hooiveld.

"In midfield you have Adam Lallana who is an exceptional player and, up front, Rickie Lambert has provided the firepower.

"Credit has to be given to Alan Pardew for bringing him in and I think he paid around £1m for him and he has scored 30 goals this season. He was rightly named Championship player of the season."

McMenemy also believes if they can sign a couple of experienced players then Southampton already have the infrastructure in place to become a mainstay of the division.

He added: "I think one or two with Premier League experience or international experience would suit Saints.

"But away from the team, Southampton have top-class facilities. They have a first-class training ground, the stadium is not that old.

"St Mary's holds 32,000 and Saints will get crowds better than a lot of the clubs already in the Premier League. The atmosphere is fantastic, the crowd is very loyal and they deserve their success."

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