Mark Hughes insists he doesn’t fear the weight of expectation that is being placed on his shoulders ahead of the new season.

The Saints boss is set to take charge of his first full season at the club having initially arrived on a temporary basis for the final eight games of the last campaign.

His mission then was clear and simple – to keep Saints in the Premier League.

However, now there are fresh hopes and dreams from supporters to be satisfied, and, inevitably given the popularity of his appointment, expectations that Hughes can restore Saints’ position as challengers for European football.

That seems a big ask given the nature of how things have gone over the last year or so, and with the Saints squad having had some remodelling work done rather than a total overhaul this summer.

But Hughes is in a positive mindset ahead of the season opener against Burnley at St Mary’s on Sunday and won’t talk the club down.

He said: “Expectation is always there. I have always worked with expectation.

“I am not one who tries to underplay our chances, and I’ve never done that at any club I’ve been at and never underplayed the potential of any club I’ve been at, and I won’t start now.

“Fans don’t want to hear we are only looking to survive or whatever, they need more than that.

“That’s our intention as well and I think we are more than capable of having a good season this year, but expectations will have to be tempered on occasions maybe when we go up against opposition a little bit better than us, then we take stock.

“It’s a clean slate and we will be ready to go again, no problem.”

Hughes is already endearing himself to Saints fans, both with the messages he is delivering and his pre-season team selection.

Recognising a lack of goals in the team Hughes has tried to find different ways to get two strikers involved, whether that is two up front or one playing off of the other, with Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini favourites to get the nod this weekend.

“It’s going to help us as long as we get the rest of the elements of our play right and giving them enough service to get them in the right areas of the pitch,” he admitted.

“To be able to do that you have got to be able to dominate opposition, dominate in midfield and release them in areas at the top end of the pitch.”