Tim Sparv is a name many Southampton fans are familiar with. Growing up with the likes of Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott and Nathan Dyer in the Saints youth team and helping them to the FA Youth Cup final in2005, Sparv got one of the best footballing educations you could possibly ask for. <!-- ######## START FLOATED VIDEO SNIPPET ######## -->
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After failing to truly break into the Saints first team, Sparv had spells in Swedish, Dutch and German football before joining current Danish Superliga champions FC Midtjylland in 2014 - inspiring his team to their first ever league title and earning the club's Player of the Year honour.
Now, he faces the team that helped propel his career alongside his FC Midtjylland comrades as he tries to lead them to their first ever taste of the group stages in European football. Ironically, this is also the Saints' first opportunity to reach the group rounds of European football.
We caught up with the Finnish international ahead of Thursday's Europa League home leg between Southampton and FC Midtjylland to get his perspective on the game, the rise and fall of Saints and more.
St. Mary's Musings: What do you remember if your time at Southampton?
Tim Sparv: "My time at Southampton was great. Leaving your home at the age of 16 is always a huge test but thanks to all the excellent people in and around the club it turned out to be a very educative time. The academy was very good and it was motivating to be around such ambitious and inspiring players and staff."
SMM: Do you still follow Southampton's results?
TS: "I do follow the results and I watch a lot of Premier League football so now and again they tend to show a Saints game and I'll tune into that."
SMM: So, what was your reaction to the Europa League draw?
TS: "Mixed emotions. On one hand I was smiling and looking forward to going back to my former club, on the other I wanted the best chance to qualify. But, Southampton, along with Borussia Dortmund, are the toughest opponents we could have got."
SMM: What do you think of Saints' fall to League One once you left the club?
TS: "I don't have all the information as to why they fell from the Premier League to League One. But, from a footballing perspective, it's sad that a club of Southampton's stature was away from the limelight for a few years.
"In my opinion, Southampton belong in the Premier League. From an outside perspective, they're a role model club in the way they bring young players through. They have a modern approach to things and a football philosophy that I really like."
SMM: What do you make of Southampton's subsequent rise to the Premier League and now European football?
TS: Saints could well be a club that plays European football now and again. Hopefully not this year :)
SMM: What do you think of your former Saints youth teammates and why does the club produce so many talented footballers?
TS: "There were a lot of players that has gone on to have great careers. Theo Walcott was always the standout performer in our youth team. Nathan Dyer was always producing goals and assists and had, just as Theo, that raw speed that is so important in today's football.
"Gareth Bale's tranformation has been exceptional. I didn't see that power in him when he was an academy player. He always had a sweet left foot and a good work ethic. Adam Lallana had a bunch of skill and great football brain. His character was always excellent so I'm pleased that he got a dream move to Liverpool.
"Andrew Surman, Simon Gillet, Leon Best, Dexter Blackstock, Matthew Mills etc have all gone on to have good careers. We really had an exceptional group of young players together, always pushing each other forward. But, without the coaches we would not have made it. George Prost, Stewart Henderson, Steve Wigley and many more gave us the foundation we needed. Huw Jennings was also inspirational in setting up the academy structure."
SMM: How will it feel to set foot on the St. Mary's pitch on Thursday?
TS: "It will be surreal to be back. I'll try and enjoy it as much as I can but my main goal will be to do my best for FC Midtjylland."
SMM: Please shed some light on FC Midtjylland for the uninitiated.
TS: "FC Midtjylland is a club that is going places. We won our first championship last year and the clubs ambition is that we should not only be fighting for honours on home soil but also in Europe. The atmosphere is energetic at the club. People looking for new modern ways to approach training, scouting, tactics, set-piece situations and physical training. Really my type of club.
"Too many clubs these days are going for the same dull and conservative approach and that won't develop our game. We also have a renowned academy and have sent many players to the best leagues in Europe. It's also a family atmosphere around the club which makes it easy for new players with their families to settle in."
SMM: Finally, what do you think the score will be on your return to Southampton?
TS: 1-1. We'll score on a set-piece!
We would like to thank Tim for his time in speak to us.
We wish you luck... from next Friday onwards!