Ralph Hasenhuttl has admitted banning new contract talk could prove the key to Southampton’s Premier League revival.
Saints’ taskmaster Austrian boss vowed not to talk about his own or any players’ futures at the height of the south coast club’s relegation dogfight.
Southampton’s 9-0 home hammering by Leicester shamed the club back in October and Hasenhuttl’s days appeared numbered at St Mary’s.
But the progressive coach has turned the campaign on its head, with five league wins across December and January – including a 2-1 revenge victory at Leicester.
Saints are two points shy of the 36 mark that Hasenhuttl installed as the barrier to any talk of the future, which will include discussions on an extension for both himself and club captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
Hasenhuttl’s 12th-placed side could move past that target with victory at West Ham on Saturday, leaving the 52-year-old still upholding his ban – but also conceding it has very nearly paid full dividend.
“I think in the moment when we were struggling so much, I said first let us take the points and then we can think about everything else,” said Hasenhuttl.
“Still we only have 34, so let’s wait until we have them and then we can discuss everything else.
“We have taken a few wins and that was necessary; you see how quickly things can change, and how quickly you are in a different role and far away from the relegation zone.
“We worked very hard to get these points. The great thing in football is you can always turn things around.
“We did it in an awesome way, but there’s still 12 games to go. And the next ones are always the most difficult ones.
“Maybe it was good we focused on what we can do best, which is perform well.
“The focus was absolutely on, all the rumours were pushed aside, and sometimes that helps to stay hungry, to stay showing up.
“This is what I expected, what I hoped, and we showed a very good reaction.”
Tottenham loan defender Kyle Walker-Peters is back in contention for Saturday’s West Ham trip, having shaken off a calf concern, but Nathan Redmond is still sidelined with a hip injury.
Hasenhuttl is likely to extend his own contract once Saints are safe from relegation, while the club should also look at a new deal for midfielder Hojbjerg, who has one year to run on his existing deal.
The no-nonsense St Mary’s boss insisted that there is nothing wrong with players or coaches feeling a bit of jeopardy over their futures, revealing it helped him peak in his own playing days.
“It’s not long ago that we were struggling, so we know exactly how that felt,” said Hasenhuttl.
“We don’t want to feel it again, and that’s the reason why we really stayed focused and concentrated.
“And maybe that helped that we didn’t speak about anything else. I think it was the right decision.
“When I was a player I often had the situation that I was out of contract at the end of the season.
“And I must say my best time was always when I knew it was about showing up. This is not always negative, it is sometimes positive.”