Ward-Prowse shrugs off Koeman loss
Southampton may have to start their Premier League campaign without Ronald Koeman, but James Ward-Prowse is confident the manager's absence would not derail them at Newcastle.
The Europa League has proved costly to English clubs over the years, but returning home sweating on the manager's fitness is not a scenario anyone could have foreseen.
Saints secured progress to the play-offs with a 2-0 win at Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday evening, giving Koeman something to smile about at the end of a painful return to the club with whom he began his managerial career.
On the eve of the second leg the former Dutch defender ruptured his Achilles, meaning he took to his place on the bench with crutches and his foot in a protective boot.
Koeman told Press Association Sport after the match he was seeing a specialist in his homeland on Friday morning and admitted he was unsure whether that could sideline him for Sunday's season opener.
Missing the trip to St James' Park would certainly be a blow for Saints, but midfielder Ward-Prowse is confident they have the wherewithal to manage such a scenario.
"He joined in training as he does and it was a freak thing where he stepped back and it went," he said. "These things happen, it's just one of those things.
"I am not sure yet (about Sunday) - he hasn't really said yet.
"(It would not impact us) at all. You can see he focus of the lads. I think some teams it may affect, but we were solid and focused on the job in hand."
Ward-Prowse believes this weekend's clash with Newcastle will prove "very difficult" as Steve McClaren's arrival will have "rejuvenated" them.
However, Southampton will arrive in the north east bubbling with confidence after securing a 5-0 aggregate win from what had looked to be a tricky clash against Vitesse.
"We knew we had to perform well and the job was half done," Ward-Prowse said.
"But we were very professional and managed the game well and, obviously, the early goal helped us settle into the game. It's just a case of doing things the right way for Sunday."
It certainly looks a tough start to an important Premier League season for Ward-Prowse.
The 20-year-old has already made 74 top-flight appearances, but has yet to establish himself as a regular starter.
That task will be even harder in what Ward-Prowse believes is a better squad than last term, although he is confident of progressing and earning a maiden senior international call-up.
"I want to start every game I can," he said.
"I've had a few years of starting games and not starting games so I want to nail down a permanent place in the team.
"Obviously international-wise, I want to be heading for the full England squad. So hopefully if I keep performing well for the club, then hopefully the first team with England will come calling."