Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl believes it would have been completely understandable to postpone fixtures for a second weekend as he prepares to resume Premier League duties following the Queen’s death.
Saints will be among the first four clubs to return to top-flight action when they travel to Aston Villa on Friday evening, with Nottingham Forest versus Fulham kicking off simultaneously.
Hasenhuttl praised the nation’s respectful response to the news from Buckingham Palace, saying he had never seen anything similar.
The Austrian supported the Premier League’s decision to reschedule last weekend’s matches and, ahead of Monday’s state funeral, would have had no objections to prolonging the hiatus.
“I must say you can be very proud of the people living here because of the way they showed their respect for a wonderful person, for a very long term where she was on duty and serving this country,” he said.
“The way you show the respect is impressive, very special.
“All over the world, I haven’t seen something similar, to be honest, and I was in a lot of countries living and working.
“It was, for me, an absolutely clear decision not to play football last weekend and I would also completely understand if we wouldn’t play this weekend because it’s a special moment for this country.
“It’s very impressive how the people are reacting, how they are showing their respect.
“They are not forced to queue for 20 hours to say goodbye to her, they simply want to do it. You can be very proud of the situation you are living in in this country.
“We will all be thinking about her and the whole weekend is a chance for everybody to show their respect and this is what we will do.”
Southampton, who have taken seven points from their opening six fixtures, were thumped on their last visit to Villa Park – a 4-0 loss in March.
Villa have won only four of 18 league matches since to put pressure on manager Steven Gerrard, albeit they claimed an impressive point against champions Manchester City last time out.
Hasenhuttl has challenged his players to improve significantly on their “worst away game” of last season.
“They are full of high individual quality in the team,” he said of Villa.
“After a not so easy start, which is normal in the Premier League, they are starting to play better and I think the last game against Man City showed how good they can be at home.
“For us, we had some very good games there in the past and last year was maybe one of the not so good ones for us and we want to do things much better.
“It was maybe the worst away game we had last season and it’s a good chance to show we can do it better.”
Saints pair Tino Livramento (knee) and Romeo Lavia (hamstring) remain sidelined.
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