Ralph Hasenhuttl has labelled steering Southampton to Premier League safety as one of his biggest managerial achievements.
Saints’ Austrian boss paid tribute to Saints’ coaches and players for trusting his taskmaster methods, to turn a “horrible situation” in December into top-flight security in April.
Southampton sat 18th in the Premier League table with just nine points from 15 games when Hasenhuttl took the helm in early December.
The 51-year-old has guided Saints to 29 points from 21 games, with Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Bournemouth at St Mary’s sealing top-flight safety.
“It was really one of the most difficult jobs for me as a manager to come back with this team,” said Hasenhuttl.
“Everybody knows after my first game we were five behind Cardiff, with a very tough schedule over Christmas.
“We are very happy, and we have the feeling we deserve these points, because we did a lot for it.
“This is amazing, I think a bit tired after a very intense, crazy game.
“But happy, very happy, for the club, supporters, players staff, everybody who is with us.
“And to be safe two games before the end of the season is tremendous, amazing, sensational.
“The training camp in Tenerife after losing my first game at Cardiff (1-0) was a horrible situation.
“And how we built the belief there, it was really, really hard work and intensive.
“A lot of players showed you can expect much more from them than they had shown in the first part of the season.
“So I would like to thank the players for believing in that.”
Callum Wilson bagged a brace and missed a gilt-edged late chance to complete a hat-trick that would have floored Saints in front of their own fans.
Shane Long, James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett all produced fine finishes for Saints.
Targett headed the 1,000th Premier League goal of the season – his maiden top-flight strike and the finish that seals Saints safety and another £100million windfall next term.
Dan Gosling slotted Bournemouth’s other goal with England star Wilson providing the assist in an impressive display.
Hasenhuttl gathered his players in the centre circle at full-time, as Saints waited for the final score from Cardiff’s trip to Fulham.
The Bluebirds’s 1-0 loss at Craven Cottage rubber-stamped Saints’ safety, with Hasenhuttl admitting he felt it important to mark the achievement with his squad.
“I wanted to celebrate that moment with my players, my staff, because the time we’ve been working together we’ve enjoyed a lot,” said Hasenhuttl.
“We were always waiting for the moment when we were safe. The first step is done now.
“And then I told them they are off until Wednesday.
“Not having to listen to me until then is the best present I can give them!”
Cherries boss Howe hailed his side for battling out the draw, with Wilson gaining top plaudits.
“We had a big chance to win the game at the end, but I’m really pleased with the fighting characteristics and pride that we showed,” said Howe.
“Callum played very well today, physically he was a real threat and he took his goals well too.
“Both teams really tried to win the game and go for it, with a lot of tactical reshuffles from both managers; it was really interesting and good to be involved in.
“I respect their manager a lot and I think they will be a lot stronger next year.”