SAINTS have lost a “leader” of the dressing room in Oriol Romeu, but they might be gaining one from an unexpected source.
The influence of the 30-year-old over seven years of service to the St Mary’s side could be deemed irreplaceable but, in football, you have to try.
It is not only Romeu’s contribution who Kyle Walker-Peters is looking to emulate, also crediting the likes of Nathan Redmond ahead of his transfer to Turkish side Besiktas.
The 25-year-old defender and England international has already made himself one of the finest examples of footballer within the group, through performances alone.
But, as the average age of the Saints incomings continues to fall, the otherwise self-professed chilled, quiet and unassuming star wants his influence to extend beyond that.
“I want to be a captain one day,” he tells the Daily Echo. “I’ve started to encourage and speak to the younger players a bit more, being vocal in post-match meetings.
“If I disagree or agree with something, then I’m always giving my opinion. It’s something that I am trying to add to my personality.
“(Romeu) He's a leader. He is a leader. Someone I took a lot from, so aggressive on the pitch,” Walker-Peters continued.
“Coming from Tottenham I wasn’t so aggressive and didn’t really have that bite that he has, but training with and playing with him I have got that now.
“He’s someone who I have learnt a lot from, someone who was really approachable and a top, top player.”
As well as the earlier additions of Romeo Lavia, 18, Gavin Bazunu, 20 and Sekou Mara, 20, deadline day signings Samuel Edozie and Juan Larios – 19 and 18 respectively – slotted straight into the matchday squad last Saturday.
Going out the other way has been Romeu, 30, Jack Stephens, 28, Jan Bednarek, 26 and soon to be Redmond, 28.
Walker-Peters arrived at Staplewood Campus nearing the end of the 2020 January transfer window, a young player himself with Champions League but no more than 12 Premier League matches of experience.
“There were a few times where I had Nathan Redmond shouting at me, Ryan Bertrand, Jannik Vestergaard. But it’s only because they wanted to help me improve,” he said.
“They believed I had quality and always told me that but if they thought I could do something better they would tell me.
“On the pitch, it’s not always nice to have someone shouting at you but as a young player I took it on board and didn’t argue back, whether I agreed or not.
“Sometimes you have to be humble enough to take the advice and improve. I'm trying to add that leadership my personality and I think I'm getting it.”
Walker-Peters continued: “(James Ward-)Prowse is really good at it. I remember going to Prowsey on various occasions for advice and he's always there to speak to.
“I'm just learning what I can. I’ve taken little bits from Ori, Redmond, Bertrand, Vestergaard, all those senior players.
“And even all those players that I played with at Spurs. It's something I'm really trying to try to add them and I hope I'm doing a good job.”
It is the words of a father figure Walker-Peters takes from his Spurs days that likely fuel this ambition, too.
In May 2019, two years after the sad passing of Tottenham’s under-23s coach, Ugo Ehiogu, Walker-Peters attended Seven Sisters Primary School to open a new mini-pitch dedicated in his honour.
Ehiogu, who Walker-Peters credits with having a ‘massive impact’ on his career, passed away on 21 April 2017, after suffering a cardiac arrest at Spurs’ training ground.
“You know what, Ugo Ehiogu actually said that to me when I was 19. He told me I’ve got the capabilities of being a captain,” Walker-Peters reflected.
“But it was more so because I’m someone that likes to lead from example with the ball, and in the game I’m not so vocal.
“Now I’m starting to add that vocal side to my game, I know I need that as a captain. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
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