With the first game of the season just three sleeps away our ever-popular Away Fans Views series returns. The usual ‘interviewer of away fans’ (Ryan) is currently on holiday in Spain, so I caught up with Ben (@GoMarchingIn) from Southampton FC Blog Go Marching In for a look ahead to our first game of the season at St. Mary’s Stadium.

You can read the reciprocal interview with me answering the questions here.

Hi Ben, congratulations on securing promotion back to the Championship. The teams that came up last season did very well, especially Norwich, how do you rate your chances by comparison?

It’s always difficult to predict how well a team will do having just been promoted. Last season Norwich literally forgot how to lose and even though I would love for Southampton to do the same, I just can’t see it happening.

There’s no doubt in my mind that with the squad we have we are more than capable of achieving at least a mid-table finish. With the right additions in January and a good run of form in the second half of the season, there is no reason why we can’t be challenging for a play-off place.

The important thing for me is that we have a solid first season back in the Championship. No Southampton fan should be disappointed with that. We need stability and everyone pulling in the same direction. A strong campaign this time round will provide us with a great foundation to push on from next season.

What are your thoughts on Southampton’s dealings in the transfer window? Do you think you’re ready for the challenge ahead, or are you hoping for further additions? 

Whilst I probably would have liked the club to have signed one or two more players by now, the acquisitions of Jack Cork and Steve de Ridder strike me as very good business.

The majority of the squad should be more than capable of playing in the Championship and it’s good to see Southampton adding quality in key areas of the team.

I mentioned earlier that a mid-table finish should be our minimum expectations and I feel our current squad is capable of achieving that. A couple of quality signings in January could be the difference between mid-table and the play-offs.

I was massively impressed with Rickie Lambert in 2009-10 when we were in League One with you. 57 goals in 110 appearances pretty much says it all really, but do you think he can continue his prolific scoring record in the Championship?

Every player wants to test themselves at the highest level that they can. Rickie will be desperate to show that he has what it takes to score goals in the Championship and he’s recently gone on record saying he is in the best shape of his life. He’ll need to be.

Rickie may not be the fastest player in the world, but if you can give him the right service then nine times out of ten he’ll stick the ball in the back of the net.

A lot of the time he is only recognised for his goals, but if you watch him during a game you will realise just how much he contributes to the team. As well as scoring plenty, his strength and link-up play result in countless goals for his team mates too.

A lot of teams mark Rickie with two men and whilst this does make him less effective it creates more space and time for the players around him. I have no doubt that he will play an integral part of our season – here’s hoping it’s a good one!

Aside from Lambert, who should Leeds United fans be keeping an eye on this weekend? 

Adam Lallana is the one to watch. Great with both feet and a nightmare to win the ball from, the lad can literally turn on a sixpence. His skills, twists and turns mean he’s the most likely player to carve out a chance from nothing. Don’t give him space.

It’s also worth mentioning our newest signing Steve de Ridder. He may start against Leeds if Alex Chamberlain isn’t back from injury and his turn of pace and crossing ability could cause lots of problems for your defence. Rickie Lambert will thrive on his service.

Three up, three down – who do you think will be promoted and relegated this season?

Three up: Leicester & West Ham for definite. With a better defensive record this time round, the final promotion spot is Leeds for the taking.

Three down: Peterborough, Barnsley & Doncaster.

We like to get a sense of how other teams perceive Leeds United ahead of games, do Southampton fans share in the almost universal hatred of our club or are we just another team on the fixture list?  

I can’t speak for them all, but i’m sure most Saints fans are switched on enough to know that any ‘reputations’ you may have had in the past are in no way a true reflection of who you are now.

That said, I know there is no way I will come home from the game on Saturday not having heard the words ‘dirty’ and ‘Leeds’ in the same sentence (especially if you beat us!).

For me though, I still associate Leeds with the Premier League and you are a big club. I think you’ll be fighting it out in the top six all season. I doubt you’ll have long to wait before tasting top flight football again.

If you could have any current Leeds United player at Southampton, who would it be? 

Well I think we could do with another quality centre-back, so if you offered me the chance I would take Patrick Kisnorbo off your hands and say thank you very much! Despite not playing last season through injury, your season could have panned out very differently had he been fully fit and in the team. The thought of him partnering Jose Fonte at the heart of the Southampton defence is a pleasing one!

Any advice to offer myself and the rest of the Leeds United fans travelling to the game? (Good pubs, bad pubs etc…) 

A popular pub for away fans is Yates’ in Bedford place. Plenty of multi-storey parking in the surrounding area and it’s only a 10-15 walk from St. Mary’s.

And finally, what is your prediction for the match?

Tough one to call. Saints are notoriously bad on the opening day of the season and our record on TV isn’t great either. That said, it’s been a fair few years since Saints were promoted and everyone will be hoping that we can start the Championship campaign the way we ended the last one in League One.

My head says 1-1, but my heart says we can shake off our opening day curse with a 2-1 win.