Southampton’s plans in the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow will dras­ti­cal­ly change depend­ing on whether they are pro­mot­ed this sea­son or not.

In a sea­son that has includ­ed a record-break­ing 25 game unbeat­en run in all com­pe­ti­tions, Rus­sell Martin‘s side are now out­siders for the auto­mat­ic pro­mo­tion spots as they find them­selves behind Leeds Unit­ed, Ipswich Town and Leices­ter City.

Should they fail to secure a top two fin­ish, they will of course have the fall­back of the play-offs, but this is some­thing of a lot­tery giv­en how much is rid­ing on each game.

The wor­ry for Southamp­ton is that not only could miss­ing out on pro­mo­tion mean they may not be able to sign the cal­i­bre of play­er they would like, it may also mean they lose some of their bet­ter play­ers in the sum­mer.

Southampton could lose Taylor Harwood-Bellis unless they are promoted

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One such play­er is 22-year-old cen­tral defend­er Tay­lor Har­wood-Bel­lis.

The young­ster is cur­rent­ly on a sea­son-long loan from Man­ches­ter City, but the two clubs nego­ti­at­ed a £20 mil­lion oblig­a­tion to buy should Southamp­ton secure pro­mo­tion this sea­son.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en how impres­sive Har­wood-Bel­lis was on loan for Burn­ley as they stormed to the Cham­pi­onship title last sea­son, the Eng­land under-21 cap­tain has been impe­ri­ous for Southamp­ton this sea­son.

With cap­tain Jack Stephens hav­ing missed much of the cam­paign through injury, Har­wood-Bel­lis and Jan Bednarek have formed an impres­sive part­ner­ship at the heart of the Saints defence, par­tic­u­lar­ly as the side went on a run of con­ced­ing just 16 goals in 22 league games between the end of Sep­tem­ber and the begin­ning of Feb­ru­ary.

Giv­en that Southamp­ton lose their oblig­a­tion to buy if they miss out on an instant return to the Pre­mier League, com­bined with Har­wood-Bel­lis’ ever-grow­ing stock, it is almost unthink­able that the St Mary’s club will be able to com­plete the sign­ing per­ma­nent­ly as a Cham­pi­onship club.

Har­wood-Bel­lis is a ready-made Pre­mier League defend­er and has ambi­tions to match, whilst Southamp­ton sim­ply could not afford the ex-Black­burn Rovers loa­nee with­out the finan­cial rewards of pro­mo­tion.

Russell Martin on Harwood-Bellis Southampton future

Southampton FC v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship
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Har­wood-Bel­lis is a mod­ern defend­er who is extreme­ly com­fort­able on the ball owing to his foot­balling edu­ca­tion at City, how­ev­er he also enjoys the phys­i­cal side of the game and reads the game very well for a defend­er so young.

Southamp­ton boss Mar­tin is clear­ly a big fan, hav­ing start­ed the cen­tre-back in 30 of the 31 league games he has been avail­able for; although it has been some­what sur­pris­ing that he has shift­ed Har­wood-Bel­lis from his favoured posi­tion to play as a right-back in the last three league games in order to accom­mo­date Stephens.

As well as his defen­sive work, Har­wood-Bel­lis has con­tributed with two goals and three assists in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son, and Mar­tin is aware that with­out pro­mo­tion he is unlike­ly to stay at the south coast club.

Speak­ing about Har­wood-Bel­lis after Southampton’s 2–1 vic­to­ry over Ply­mouth Argyle in Decem­ber, Mar­tin said: “He’s been fan­tas­tic. Let’s get it right, we need to go up to keep a lot of our play­ers,”

“Oth­er­wise it would be an inter­est­ing sum­mer. Obvi­ous­ly, the incen­tive is to get this club back to where it belongs.

“We need to repay the patience that the sup­port­ers have giv­en us. But we also want to keep some of the play­ers that the sup­port­ers love.

“We have so many top young play­ers that if we don’t quite get there then maybe they get there some oth­er place – which won’t be the best for us.”

With ten games remain­ing, Southamp­ton are play­ing not just for pro­mo­tion but to ensure the futures of Har­wood-Bel­lis and like­ly a num­ber of oth­er key fig­ures.

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