BOSS Ralph Hasenhuttl predicted a pre-season “battle” between goalkeepers Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster, for who would start the 2021-22 campaign.

The Austrian manager rotated his shot-stoppers throughout the latter stages of last season, with the St Mary’s side eventually succumbing to a 15th-placed league finish.

McCarthy played 30 times in the top flight last season, keeping seven clean sheets and conceding 57 goals.

Forster played the other eight Premier League fixtures with two shutouts, having been beaten on 11 occasions.

The former Celtic man also kept a string of clean sheets in guiding Saints to an FA Cup semi-final.

Fellow stopper Angus Gunn had been on loan at Stoke, but at the time of writing, is reportedly set to finalise a move to Premier League new boys Norwich City.

And speaking about the goalkeeper situation at the end of last season, Hasenhuttl revealed he expected McCarthy and Forster to compete for a starting place.

Asked by the Daily Echo whether it would be either McCarthy or Forster to start the first game of next season, or whether the club was open to other options, Hasenhuttl replied: “I think both still have one year left on their contracts and I expect both to stay, going into next season with a battle in pre-season for who is then allowed to start.

“If you are allowed to start it doesn’t mean you also end up in the season as a number one.

“I want to have this battle. I want to have two goalkeepers that are competing for this position.

“That should normally lead to a better performance from everybody.”

Former England international Forster had to wait until January to make his first appearance of the season for Saints last term, with McCarthy Hasenhuttl’s first choice.

The Hexham-born keeper insisted working with his fellow Saints stopper was beneficial, however.

Speaking last season about his relationship with McCarthy, Forster said: “We’ve got a top relationship.

“I think we both try to help each other when the other one is not playing or the other one is playing and we just get on with it, work hard and we’ve got a great relationship.”