STARVED of success in recent seasons, Southampton fans are enjoying the Adkins diet.

Having watched Premier League football as recently as 2005, they’ve had to endure a steady slide down the Championship, administration and a drop to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960.

The 10-point deduction imposed in the wake of those financial problems proved too big a barrier for Alan Pardew to guide Saints to last season’s League I play-offs – they finally finished seventh, a place and seven points behind Town.

And the upheaval at the start of this season, when the St Mary’s club sacked Pardew five games in, did little to lift the spirits of the faithful, who believed the former Reading, West Ham and Charlton chief was turning things around and had just witnessed a 4-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers.

In came Adkins, the physio-turned-manager who had guided Scunthorpe United to two promotions from League I in three years.

And while the Birkenhead-born 45-year-old lost his first match at the helm, 2-0 at MK Dons, things have certainly picked up since, with Saints arriving at the Galpharm unbeaten in five games and, like Town, chasing a third straight win.

There’s new belief that Adkins, a former goalkeeper with Tranmere and Wigan, can clinch a third promotion triumph to add to those with Scunthorpe in 2007, when they were League I champions, and 2009, when they won through the play-offs.

Tranmere boss Les Parry, whose side went down 2-0 at St Mary’s last Saturday, was certainly impressed.

“Southampton are a good, good side and the whole set-up is well above League I level,” said the man whose Rovers team ground out a goalless draw at the Galpharm in August.

“We have played eight of the top 11 sides in this division and they are the best. They are in a false position at the moment (13th) but Nigel will get them back up there.’’

Adkins played more than 250 games for Tranmere and Wigan before joining Bangor City, where he became manager and guided the club to back-to-back League of Wales titles in 1994 and 95.

He was undertaking a PFA-sponsored physiotherapy degree at Salford University at the same time and having graduated in 1995, also has diplomas in sports psychology and business and finance as well as a UEFA Pro coaching licence.

After a decade of service behind the scenes at Scunthorpe, he took over as manager in succession to former Town player Brian Laws in November 2006, with chairman Steve Wharton explaining: “Perhaps people who don’t know the club or Nigel could see him as the cheap choice.

“But his appointment wasn’t a difficult decision because he’d been involved in the coaching set-up for 10 years.

“As physio, he was behind a lot of the new training regimes put in place and obviously had day-to-day contact with players.

“He has their trust, is a great motivator and knows how to get the best out of the players.”

Glanford Park fans, meanwhile, showed their feelings in song, with the memorable “Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio” refrain.

Now supporters at Southampton, where Adkins has taken Andy Crosby, his right-hand man at Scunthorpe, are hoping the boss is celebrating a hat trick of promotions come May.