Nigel Adkins punched the air as Southampton rattled in their goals on a gloomy yet glorious afternoon for the club but, that aside, he showed little sign of getting carried away with their promotion to the Premier League. Indeed he had almost become a forgotten figure amid the wild on-pitch celebrations, eventually re‑emerging holding a cup of tea and expressing words of measured delight. "We've put a lot of hard work in and we've achieved something special," said the Southampton manager. "Now we've got to look at a new set of goals."

Adkins could only hold his poise for so long, however, and eventually let slip a little giddiness. Asked what he was looking forward to most about life in the Premier League, he said: "Probably when the fixtures come out, you start thinking, 'oooh, What's our first game, where are we over Christmas, where is the last game of the season?' That's definitely something to look forward to." Suddenly he seemed rather younger than his 47 years.

But it would take an almighty cynic to deny Adkins his moment. This, after all, is a man who in a few months' time will be sharing a touchline with Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Kenny Dalglish having six years ago worked as the physiotherapist at Scunthorpe United. He became manager of the club following the departure of Brian Laws and led them to two promotions from League One in three seasons, an achievement that resulted in him replacing Alan Pardew as manager at St Mary's in September 2010.

Another promotion from League One followed and then, in quick succession, the one on Saturday. Little wonder some Southampton supporters now regard the former Tranmere, Wigan and Bangor City goalkeeper as the greatest manager in the club's history.

"I'm delighted to see how well Nigel has done," said Lawrie McMenemy, who, in 1978, was the last man to lead Southampton to the top flight. "Managers need to serve their apprenticeship and Nigel has done that. He will be very excited to be trying his luck in the Premier League."

Of that there is no doubt and it is the thought of a trip to Anfield that excites Adkins the most. He signed for the club as a schoolboy during Bob Paisley's tenure as manager and cites his brief time there as having a huge influence on his career. "We moved some gear recently, some scrapbooks, and I found my schoolboy signing-on form signed by Bob Paisley," said Adkins, who was born in nearby Birkenhead. "So I had a good grounding, we were privileged there with Bob as the manager and Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan and Reuben Bennett all on the coaching staff."

But Adkins is keen to stress that next season, Southampton's first in the Premier League since their relegation under Harry Redknapp in 2005, will not be one of star-gazing and sentiment. Having risen from the pits of League One on the back of a near fatal spell in administration, the south-coast club plan on establishing themselves among the elite. Their manager is also insistent they will do so playing the high-tempo, possession-based brand of football that saw Southampton never fall out of the Championship's top two places this season and finish as the division's top scorers with 85 goals.

"We're not going to disturb the squad we've got or the team ethic we've got, we'll take that forward with us," said Adkins. "But we're in the Premier League now and that requires a certain calibre of player. We know what type of player we're looking for and we've been working diligently to try to find players that are better than we've got."

The estimated £90m windfall that comes with promotion to the top flight will certainly help Adkins in his pursuit of high-calibre talent, although as was displayed against Coventry the spine of the team requires little change. Their goalkeeper, Kelvin Davies, made an excellent save to stop Coventry's captain, Gary McSheffrey, from giving the visitors the lead, before the striker Billy Sharp and the midfielder Adam Lallana scored either side of goals from Southampton's centre-back pairing of José Fonte and Jos Hooiveld. Then there is Rickie Lambert, the Championship's top scorer with 31 goals and who was recently named by the PFA as the division's player of the season.

Indeed there may be no influx of players at all as the executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, who took over at Southampton after their fall into administration alongside the recently deceased Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr, through whose estate the club is still owned, said he wants the Saints to become self-financing in the Premier League and end up with a team made up largely of homegrown players.

Southampton, of course, have a track record of this, having nurtured Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana in recent years, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. In the short term, however, Adkins' task is to add experience and expertise to a squad that has helped the club of Channon, Keegan, Shearer and Le Tissier rise from despair to glory.