May 25, 2024

Jack, it appears that things did not go as planned. How is the mood in the locker room following the 5-0 defeat?

JS: It is low. It’s just not good enough; I know that’s clear, but I believe that when you lose football matches, you may be unlucky; you can give it your all and yet fall short at times.

There may be an unfavorable ruling or a lack of quality, but the way we closed our game tonight is completely unacceptable. That’s on us as a bunch of players; at 2-0, the game isn’t over, and we’ve seen time and again, particularly in this league, that at 2-0, the game is never over.

But the way we closed the game, virtually throwing in the towel and giving up, is quite harsh, but I can’t think of a better way to characterize it.

The way it went 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 was completely unacceptable for this group and this football club, so that is entirely on us as a set of players, not anyone else. We must examine ourselves and determine whether we truly want to do what we are doing.

Were the conversations after the game about it not being good enough? 

JS: Yes, it’s not appropriate; it’s far from acceptable. Football matches are sometimes lost, and that is normal. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to give your all.

If you don’t give everything, you’re counting on a little luck and a little quality, and I’m having trouble coming up with another justification. The last 30 minutes of the game are completely terrible.

We have a huge few weeks ahead of us, and we have a significant decision to make: do we want to actually stick together, pull together, and achieve where we want to go, or do we just let the season fade out, stumble into the playoffs, cross our fingers, and hope for the best?

I know what I want to do, and I’m confident the lads will as well, but we need to find out for sure because, as I already stated, tonight was far from satisfactory.

How tough will it be to pick yourselves up after such a heavy defeat? 

Jordan Blackwell's Leicester City player ratings v Southampton as stunning  Fatawu gets a 10 - Jordan Blackwell - Leicestershire Live

 

JS: It shouldn’t be difficult at all; it should be the simplest task in the world.

I believe when people look at that and say we gave up, they are correct. I believe that is the worst thing someone can say about a football player or a group of players.

I believe that is such an easy thing to recover from that there is only one choice. We have one more home game to play before the season ends. The only option is to go out there and give your best for this football team.

We need to show that we care, that we want to enter into the playoffs with true momentum, and that we want to be promoted, since we aren’t doing so right now.

We have to be honest with ourselves, and I believe that if you look at Leicester tonight, there won’t be much between the two teams for an hour, but I believe they truly wanted it, and they wanted to win.

You can see it, and that is the major difference at the time. That hurts me, it damages the football club, and it can’t go on any longer; it has to stop right now.

We must recover; there is no other choice. On Saturday, we play our final home game of the season; it’s the only place to start.

After the game, you led your teammates across to the away supporters; how essential was it to have that moment and apologize to them for the outcome?

JS: Again, it’s the only option; they shouldn’t be here in the end, but their presence says a lot about them as fans.

For them to come tonight, on a Tuesday evening when we have a tiny possibility of automatic promotion – we’re still sold out away at Leicester – and we’ve let them down horribly.

We’ve completely let them down tonight, so the only alternative is to walk over and praise them; we have to, and we have to be grateful for everything they’ve given us this season.

This season, nearly every away end has been sold out. They’ve gone everywhere with us. They have stuck with us, so that is the only option. We should applaud the supporters after every game, but especially tonight, because, as I’ve said before, it’s not good enough.

It’s terrible for us, but it’s also embarrassing for them because they’ve traveled a long distance to see that, and that’s not how their team should be playing. That is on us.

Jack Stephens calling his Southampton teammates over to clap the fans after that terrible performance. #SaintsFC pic.twitter.com/25mld9UYkD

— George Rees-Julian (@rees_julian) April 23, 2024

What do you even say to each other as players after a performance like that?

JS: Obviously, I don’t want to get into too much detail, but we need to recognize that this is not acceptable. We’ve lost games this season where we gave it our best but weren’t quite there technically, strategically, or things just didn’t work out.

None of this was the case tonight. It’s all about perseverance, determination, and staying in the game. When it gets to 2-0, there is none of that; it just goes 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, which is not acceptable. We must all accept responsibility for that.

You set standards with your unbeaten streak, and now you’re in a slump. Leicester had a wobble and appear to have emerged out the other end. Do you believe you can do that going into the playoffs?

JS: I believe that is the championship; there are always challenges. We’ve had some bumps along the road this season, but tonight isn’t good enough.

We now have two options: sulk, moan, let the season fizzle out, and drift into the playoffs, hoping for the best, or we look ourselves in the mirror, be really honest with ourselves, ask some honest and harsh questions to each other, and figure out if we really, really want it, because we need to go into the playoffs with real momentum.

We’ve seen in recent years that teams that enter with momentum have a very good record, and we now have two opportunities to do so, so that’s our only alternative.

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