West Ham are in an immeasurably better position now than when they dropped into the Championship in 2011 but, as encouraging as the last five years have been, one team have been ahead of them almost every step of the way.
They were relegated from the Premier League at the same time that Southampton escaped League One, and the Saints would defy the prior two-tier gap between the pair to beat the Irons to automatic promotion that season.
The Londoners would finish five points better off in their first campaign back in the top flight, benefitting from Nigel Adkins’ slow start and a January managerial reboot, but the south coast side have outperformed them in each of the three years since.
Even last term when West Ham delivered their best ever Premier League points tally and challenged for a Champions League berth throughout as Southampton struggled for form until the spring, along came Shane Long and co to snatch sixth place off them on the final day.
The story has been the same in Europe, with Slaven Bilic’s men qualifying for the Europa League twice in a row, only to witness their red-and-white foes earn their spot more impressively and advance further in the competition.
That constant one-upping has spread into head-to-head combat, with Claude Puel’s men winning two and losing just one of the last four showdowns, with a 3-1 triumph on their penultimate Boleyn Ground visit probably the highlight of that quartet.
With the Saints now finding their rhythm under their new French boss, prevailing without conceding in three successive matches after beginning the campaign with two draws and two defeats, how could you not agree with their positioning as 8/5 favourites?
West Ham – 15/8 outsiders for the victory – have suffered four reverses in a row to top-tier opposition, conceding 11 times in the three Premier League games in that sequence.
The margin of failure inflicted upon them by their latest two conquerors Watford and West Brom was 4-2, and the 2015-16 top-six finishers are 50/1 to complete that particular hat-trick.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.