HANDS-UP who expected Southampton to be bound head-first for the Championship this season after their summer exodus?
No players. No manager. It looked a recipe for disaster.
But with the benefit of hindsight, what superb business the Saints did with the money they banked, the quality of their replacements (Sunderland take note) and the identity of the man they appointed to succeed Mauricio Pochettino.
Ronald Koeman has to be a contender for manager of the season after a challenge for the top four which has fallen away lately, yet was very much genuine for much of the season.
Dick Advocaat is wholesome in his praise for his fellow Dutchman.
Yet the Sunderland boss still remembers Koeman as his captain marvel, as much as a managerial marvel.
Koeman was Advocaat’s skipper in the Holland team that qualified for the 1994 World Cup and eventually reached the quarter-finals of the tournament in America.
That included the ex-Barcelona defender’s infamous moment in the qualifying campaign against England, when he clipped David Platt as he bore down on goal, only to be spared the red card.
Then England boss Graham Taylor was incensed at the decision and then boiled over moments later when Koeman gave the Dutch the lead with a pinpoint chipped free-kick from the edge of the area.
Looking back on that game 22 years later, Advocaat was asked yesterday how Koeman managed to stay on the pitch.
He smiled and mischievously replied: “Because it was not a red card!
“England were really desperate for a win, but we went to America and England stayed at home.
“After the game, yes we were lucky with that moment.
“But he was a great player. Don’t forget that!
“I think he was an underestimated player, but he was brilliant.
“He saved my neck as well!
“He was a midfielder and passer like (Pep) Guardiola, but he had a great touch from the back.
“He started the passes from the back and, if you see that kind of situation, then you know that kind of person will become a coach.”
As a manager, Koeman won the Dutch title with both Ajax and PSV, while also enjoying spells in the Eredivise with Vitesse, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar – Advocaat succeeding him at the latter in 2009.
But after years of being linked with a move to the Premier League, it was Southampton who finally took a chance on him last summer.
“He has managed at all the top Dutch clubs – PSV, Feyenoord and Ajax,” Advocaat added.
“I was his successor at AZ when he got fired.
“Southampton bought and sold some players, but they have not spent as much as they bought.
“He brought in the right players.
“But he’s a nice guy too, very down to earth.”