Ruben Selles admits standards at Southampton have not been good enough after Premier League relegation was sealed by a limp 2-0 loss to Fulham.
Second-half goals from Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic inflicted a club-record 24th defeat of the season on the division’s bottom side to leave them eight points from safety with two fixtures remaining.
Captain James Ward-Prowse conceded at full-time that Saints should have performed better across a dismal campaign, an assessment echoed by manager Selles.
“It’s a tough day for everybody, the performance on the pitch was not what we expect it to be and we were not good enough today and that’s why we are in this situation,” said the Spaniard.
“If we were in our standards, we would not be talking about this situation right now. We need to face it like that.
“I don’t think there is one point where you can say that is exactly the point where it happened.
“As a club we need to evaluate and see what the standards that James referred to are and be sure that when the club starts the next season those standards are on point.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – a Saints fan – was among those in attendance at St Mary’s as the hosts’ 11-season stay in the top flight ended in tame fashion.
Boos and chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” from disgruntled home supporters greeted the full-time whistle.
Selles, who has been in charge for 14 of Saints’ 36 top-flight matches this term following the sackings of Ralph Hasenhuttl and then Nathan Jones, felt he should have been able to inspire better results.
“I take all the responsibility for the last three months, that’s my responsibility,” he said.
“I should be able to win more football matches. I should be able to have a team that competes better.
“I think I could have done (things) different; more is difficult but I think I can do different. I made my mistakes like any other and of course it was not good enough.”
Sport Republic, the club’s owners, issued a statement vowing to fight to restore Saints to the top flight but accepting “significant improvement” would be required.
It read: “Today is a hugely disappointing day for everyone associated with Southampton Football Club.
“We have fought tirelessly as a club throughout the season, but the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and our results were simply not good enough to stay there.
“We are particularly saddened and frustrated that our first season as controlling shareholders in Southampton Football Club has ended in relegation. While this outcome is distressing for all of us, now is the time to demonstrate unity.
“We are grateful to our managers, our players, our staff and above all our fans for battling to the end to keep the Saints in the top tier.
“Our work begins today to return Southampton Football Club – an inaugural member of the Premier League with a rich history – to where it belongs. We want to reassure our supporters, our partners and our staff that we remain fully committed to achieving long-term success for the club at the top level.
“We understand that significant improvement is required, and at the end of the season we will announce our immediate next steps and provide details of how the club will operate moving forward.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva expressed sympathy with Southampton as he reflected on his “perfect” team selection.
The Portuguese opted to stick with the starting XI which began Monday’s 5-3 win over Leicester and then watched substitute Mitrovic, who was returning from an eight-game ban, seal victory seven minutes after replacing opening goalscorer Vinicius.
“Sometimes you do things and they look perfect,” he said.
“When you have Mitro ready to go, there’s a temptation to start with him because he’s the top goal-scorer, he’s been a crucial player for me and for this football club.
“To see at the end the connection between the players and the fans is a great feeling for me. We deserved the three points.”
Speaking about Saints’ plight, Silva said: “All the sympathy with this football club.
“It’s a tough period for this club, a big club, and it deserves probably to be in a different situation.
“For sure they can come stronger next season to be able to play again in the Premier League because a club like Southampton they probably deserve this situation. It’s up to them now to come stronger next season.”