Steven Davis has cited Southampton’s Europa League disappointment back in August as a motivating factor to return to the continental club competition next term.
Saints moved to seventh in the Barclays Premier League at the weekend with a 2-1 win over Stoke and Ronald Koeman’s side are now well positioned to be one of England’s Europa League representatives for a second-straight campaign.
However, their last dalliance with the tournament saw them eliminated by Danish club FC Midtjylland before the group stages so midfielder Davis, who reached the final of the then UEFA Cup with Rangers in 2008, would dearly love a proper crack at the Europa League in the 2016-17 season.
“The aim every year is to try and progress and do better than you did the previous season,” the Saints skipper explained.
“Having put ourselves in such a good position last year with all the hard work, it was really disappointing to go out before the group stages.
“There are still a lot of important games to be played between now and the end of the season.”
“But you can’t really foresee how this season is going to go – every week is a challenge.”
The unpredictability has been epitomised by Leicester still leading the way in the top flight despite many believing Claudio Ranieri’s men would eventually fall away.
Davis has admired the character of the Foxes and will use their success story as evidence the Premier League’s established order can be shaken up by others in future campaigns too.
“I think it gives other teams inspiration,” the Northern Irishman added.
“What they have done is incredible this year, to show that kind of consistency. Everybody has said all along they were just waiting for them to slip up but they seem to have got that drive and determination. They fully deserve to be where they are, fair play to them.
“Maybe it gives everybody else that incentive that they can achieve something like that.”
Southampton’s win at the Britannia Stadium, which came courtesy of two goals from Graziano Pelle, also dented the Europa League aspirations of Stoke, who slipped below them in the table as a result of the defeat.
Some managers see those extra Thursday night games as a burden alongside their domestic commitments and while Potters boss Mark Hughes concedes juggling such a fixture list can be challenging, he would welcome the chance to take it on.
Asked if reaching the Europa League can be a double-edged sword, Hughes replied: “Yes, but we would love the opportunity to see if we could cope.
“That’s the key if it happens, it happens. We would be delighted. We would love to be able to experience it again.
“We would not try and not do it because we think it is a little bit of a bind. It is something we would embrace rather than be fearful.”