IT is hard to believe only four years have passed since Saints twice lost at Swindon Town’s County Ground in League One.
Kelvin Davis and Jose Fonte were the only survivors from those 1-0 defeats in 2010 as Ronald Koeman took charge of his first Saints game on English soil last night.
Not since Paolo Di Canio managed Swindon had the County Ground witnessed a scrum of photographers as sizeable as that which greeted Koeman as he took his place in the away dug-out.
Wearing a white shirt and smartly-pressed chinos, he looked more appropriately dressed for a game of cricket.
It certainly felt too hot for football, although admittedly a few degrees down on what Koeman’s countrymen overcame during their impressive World Cup.
The conditions no doubt contributed to a nondescript 90 minutes, but the main thing was that Saints had a decent work-out with no major injury concerns.
There was no appearance for Dusan Tadic, the creative fulcrum signed from FC Twente to replace Adam Lallana but unavailable on English shores while he awaits a work permit.
Graziano Pelle showed some encouraging signs. He may not have added to the brace he scored in the recent 6-0 win over Belgian outfit Sporting Hasselt, but his approach play was tidy enough, although not as slick as his immaculate barnet.
Early on, he twice went close but saw one shot blocked by defenders and scuffed another attempt with his left foot.
Five academy graduates started (another seven came on after an hour) and Harrison Reed was the pick of them.
The 19 year-old was extremely composed in possession, which he retained consistently while dovetailing well with newly-wed Jack Cork in front of the back four.
Lloyd Isgrove showed a willingness to run at defenders down the left, one foray taking him past his man and into a threatening position before he was clattered by Swindon midfielder Louis Thompson.
Sam McQueen and James Ward-Prowse complete the attacking triumvirate that began the match just behind Pelle.
Matt Targett also gained more valuable game-time during his hour at left-back, where he is expected to replace Luke Shaw.
It says much for Saints’ youth policy that the likes of Jake Sinclair, Jordan Turnbull, Jake Flannigan, former Swindon loanee Jack Stephens and Jason McCarthy also enjoyed half an hour.
This may have only been a low-key pre-season friendly played in front of 3,958, but they will have gained valuable confidence from being involved in a ‘first-team’ win while keeping a clean sheet.
Neither Saints goalkeeper was seriously tested, until Paulo Gazzaniga was rounded late on, when Callum Chambers cleared the danger.
Saints are yet to concede a goal after three pre-season matches.
But they will soon be up against more formidable number tens than Andy Williams, who was able to turn goalscorer Jos Hooiveld with ease during one of Swindon’s brighter moments.
Bigger tests will soon come, starting at AFC Bournemouth on Friday night.