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Skipper's Saints Respect

Southampton back where they belong, says Neville.

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When Phil Neville leads Everton out against Southampton on Saturday it will be with a touch of nostalgia for seasons gone by.

Something about Saints being back in the Premier League just feels right for the Everton skipper.

It is seven years since the south coast club slipped through the relegation trapdoor to begin a painful hiatus away from the top flight, meaning tomorrow's encounter will be his first against them in the royal blue of his current employers.

Yet annual battles with the boys from what was then The Dell were a staple of the young Neville's Premier League education at Manchester United.

As such, he's always felt there's been a deserving place for them at English football's top table.

"Forget the last seven years, they are a Premier League club. Everything about them is Premier League," said Neville, for whom an early introduction to the Saints was a 6-3 defeat in which United famously ditched their dreary grey away kit at half time before promptly scrapping the outfit all together.

"When I first broke into the first team at Manchester United, Southampton were a stable Premier League side and they always produced good players - good young players - and it was always a difficult place to go," he continued. "They've got a great tradition and history of producing young players, playing good football and I think they will probably see it that they're back where they belong."

Neville tries to keep tabs on Matt Le Tissier during a game in 1998.Neville tries to keep tabs on Matt Le Tissier during a game in 1998.

The seventh biggest spenders in Europe last summer, Southampton aren't taking their return to the big time lightly.

And in boss Nigel Adkins, Neville believes they have a leader who can restore them to their standing of old.

At a reported £11million, Uruguayan winger Gaston Ramirez became a club record signing last month, while the former physio has also added the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Emmanuel Mayaku, Jay Rodriguez and Steven Davis.  

"That he [Adkins] has taken the club to two consecutive promotions says a lot," said Neville. "He did a great job at Scunthorpe as well. He was a bit of an unknown when he first came into management but he got his chance, took it, got his move to Southampton and he's taken them on from there.

"I think they've signalled their intent with the fact they've spent lots of money. They've stuck with the players who got them up but also added to it. It's going to be a really tough game on Saturday."

Everton will be looking to make their own statement of intent having exited the Capital One Cup at the hands of Leeds on Tuesday night.  And Neville says it's important they put on a show for their home supporters.

"It's been an up and down week really. We hit the heights at Swansea with a fantastic performance last weekend and it took us up to second in the league, and at the Club and among the supporters there was a real feel-good factor.

"But Tuesday night we let ourselves down with our performance. We had a changed team but we had enough quality players on the pitch and we just weren't good enough on the night. We need to bounce back from that.

"You've got to move on in football. It's about how you react to things like that. That's the big test for us now and we’ve got a tough game ahead."

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