Benali played his entire career in the top-flight of English football with Saints, and knows all about the demanding nature of preparing for the slog of a nine month long season, which ten years on from hanging up his boots, certainly isn’t missed.
The man who made almost 400 appearances for Saints isn’t being too smug at the moment however, as he is completing some training of his own for ‘Benali’s big run’ which will see the former defender embark on a 21 day challenge to run around every Premier League ground in the country in the name of raising money for cancer research.
Although he’ll miss a couple of games early on in the season to complete the challenge, Franny is eagerly anticipating another exciting campaign.
“I think I look forward to every game really,” he told Saints' official YouTube channel
at the launch of his charity fundraising efforts.
“Even as a supporter and as a player in the past, every game I used to look forward to playing in, or look forward to watching now. It’s the place to play your football. The Premier League is a fantastic standard of football, the competition is great, it’s exciting times here at St Mary’s, and I can’t wait for the campaign to start so I can cheer the boys on again this season.
“There’s always that optimism at the start of the season, but it does seem to have come around even quicker this year because of having the World Cup to fill the close season. There’s been no break, and that gets everyone’s interest in the game going.
“Knowing that the boys are back and preparing for the coming season already is quite a shock in some ways, and in another I don’t mind it because I’m no longer doing it! I don’t miss the pre-seasons I must admit, but they’re all working extremely hard I’m sure and I bet they’ll be ready first game of the season for another great campaign.
“It’s going to be difficult, but every season is,” Benali asserts.
“There’s going to be no easy games and no easy seasons, but all the guys at the club here everybody knows that. A good start would be nice so you get out of the blocks with some points on the board early which would be a good thing because there will be a blip somewhere with form and injuries/suspensions, but I think now the stature of the club and the size that it is nowadays we’ve got a squad that can handle it and compete at the top end of the table without questions.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good campaign and thoroughly looking forward to coming down to watch a lot of games.”
Benali is particularly looking forward to tracking the progress of new manager Ronald Koeman, who has the 45 year-old’s backing to be a success at St Mary’s.
“He was an amazing player wasn’t he? He’s a huge name to attract to Southampton,” said the former full-back.
“I’m hopeful and excited like everybody else is associated with Saints, that it will be a successful season for both him and the club and I think with his experience and his knowledge, and his background, he’ll be a massive asset and bring success to the club.”
A winning start at Liverpool would go some way towards the start of that, and Benali has his eyes on Anfield already even though there’s still a month to go before the big kick-off.
“The history of the club and the size of the club alongside the success they had last year means it’s going to be a huge fixture,” he said.
“Then, especially given the transfers that have taken place this summer, you can see why the television has picked that for a live fixture and I’m sure our boys will be up for that one more so than ever.”