Mountain pressure: The season has been an uphill climb for Ralph Hasenhuttl
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl admits being unable to escape to the mountains of Austria with his family have contributed to one of the toughest seasons of his career.
Hasenhuttl has not visited his homeland or seen his wife and children for almost a year because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
It has been an increasingly testing campaign for the 53-year-old, with Saints’ bright start – which included temporarily topping the Premier League table – slipping away into a relegation battle.
Hasenhuttl revealed that being denied opportunities to briefly break free from the pressures of top-flight management have had a detrimental effect.
“Covid, all the restrictions, not allowed – it sounds stupid – to go home for a few days (has been tough),” he said ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Crystal Palace.
“I haven’t been home for nearly a year now, to get some energy. Coming from the mountains, sometimes you miss them a little bit and your family also, my kids and my wife.
“It’s a long, long season, with a lot of games with the cup competitions, with a very tight schedule. This was a very tough one.
“Not just for me, also for the players. Normally they are used to getting visits from home and their countries. This is all part of our socialising.
“This is not happening for more than one year and definitely it affects you. It was a tough, long season but the good thing is we are nearly there, hopefully.
“Let’s keep on going and then we have hopefully next season a more enjoyable one for everything.”
Despite taking the fewest points in the division in 2021, Southampton sit on the verge of securing survival.
Defeat for Fulham against Burnley on Monday evening would be sufficient but, should that not happen, Saints can do it themselves against Palace.
Top scorer Danny Ings could return from injury to face the Eagles at St Mary’s.
Hasenhuttl initially feared the influential England international could miss the remainder of the season after suffering a hamstring problem in the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham on April 21.
“It’s possible. We will have a look today in the session and then we will decide it,” said Hasenhuttl, when asked about the striker’s availability.
Hasenhuttl is bidding to end his side’s five-match winless run in all competitions by getting the better of veteran Eagles boss Roy Hodgson.
With his Palace contract due to expire in the summer, there have been suggestions 73-year-old former England boss Hodgson is set to retire.
Hasenhuttl does not envisage his rival manager stepping away from the game completely and believes he is a “role model” for anyone dreaming of a long-lasting coaching career.
“Absolutely highest possible respect from my side for his entire managing career,” he said of Hodgson.
“A wonderful person, an unbelievable manager. A role model – if you want – for how long you can do this job.
“We always speak about how healthy this job is when I see him. It should be very healthy because when you see him he is still healthy and fit.
“I cannot imagine that he is stopping now completely. It is always enjoyable to see him and talk to him and he is absolutely relaxed and himself and this is good to watch.”