New season can't come quickly enough for Saints ace

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Southampton striker Lee Barnard is delighted to have extended his stay on the south coast, after signing a new three-year deal at St. Mary's that will keep him at the club until June 2014.

Heading into the final 12 months of his contract, Barnard who hit 15 goals for the Saints in his first full season, revealed he can't wait to get started in the Championship in 2011-12 - the first time he will have experienced football at that level.

"I'm absolutely delighted," he beamed. "I love it here it's a great club and I'm glad that I've secured my future here for another three years.

"The club has been there right behind me, supported me all the way, and I really appreciate it.

"On the football side it's a big club and we're going places with the same ambition that I've got, so I'm more than delighted to sign."

After starting his career with Tottenham Hotspur, Barnard struggled to make the step up to the first-team, so spent a number of loan spells away from north London with Exeter, Stevenage, Leyton Orient, Northampton and Crewe, before completing a permanent move to Southend United in 2008.

The Essex-born striker spent a successful 18 months at Roots Hall, scoring 37 goals in 75 appearances for the Shrimpers before Southampton paid an undisclosed fee to bring him to the club in January 2010.

Although initially signed by former Saints boss Alan Pardew, Barnard has flourished under Nigel Adkins, and the 26-year-old paid tribute to the coaching staff that have helped take his game to the next level.

"He pulled me aside and said that he wants me to stay, but it was no decision really," he mused. "I wanted to stay and like I say I love it here, it's a big club and with great fans.

"The staff have been good so I feel settled and wanted which means I just want to play football here."

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