- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
WHILE the end to the season may have been anything but, Saints can proudly lay claim to having an aspect truly elite within their ranks.
Marshalling by example, their captain, leader and legend-in-waiting is among the select of the Premier League’s best players, and recognised by the league as such.
James Ward-Prowse, England international and revered dead ball specialist, is one of eight aces at the top of the pack, nominated for the league’s coveted player of the season award.
The 27-year-old, listed alongside Mohamed Salah, Heung-min Son, Kevin De Bruyne and more is the only star to not come from a top-seven club – testament to the season he has had.
“(It’s) a massive honour, it was a little bit strange reading it at first,” Ward-Prowse admitted to the Daily Echo. “I thought ‘really?’
“I’m always trying to keep myself grounded and to have that nomination is crazy, something to be proud of. It’s great to be recognised in that respect, very, very special.
“At the start of the season you always sit down and look at what you want to achieve, try and improve on your stats from last year, concentrate and try to improve as many facets of your game.
“I think I have definitely done that this year so yeah, but I’m always looking at the team and the club’s perspective instead of personal ones – but it’s extremely special, for sure.”
Trying to improve on his stats from last year, the skipper says he targeted. He has done exactly that and in emphatic fashion.
Assisted by no fewer than four from direct free-kicks, Ward-Prowse has amassed a personal best nine Premier League goals this season. That total playing a big part in a clean sweep of three awards at the Saints presentation earlier this month.
“Everybody has those personal targets and I would love to reach 10,” the skipper beamed. “I would rather win the game Sunday to make sure we finish on a high, but I’ll be after that 10th goal for sure.”
Saints’ supporters will hope to enjoy Ward-Prowse’s impact on their team for some time still to come, and despite interest from top clubs across England the four years left on his current deal will aid that.
But the club will need to take the next steps to persuade players like Ward-Prowse to continue their career at St Mary’s, despite the obvious commitment the academy graduate has.
A run of just one win in the last 11 matches has seen a second consecutive season fizzle out from the promising to the frustrating – and likely a back-to-back 15th-place finish.
“There is a lot of frustration for sure, we have not fulfilled what we could have fulfilled,” Ward-Prowse admitted.
“And if you look at the Aston Villa game earlier in the season where we lost away (4-0), it was a bad day at the office and we have never really recovered from that.”
He continued: “We went from a position of looking up the table to making sure we stayed in the league. That is a really disappointing feeling to have.”
That disappointment was evident following the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday night, in the final home contest of the campaign.
For the players’ customary lap of appreciation, St Mary’s emptied to well under less than half full – although those that remained clap the group round.
— Alfie House (@AlfieHouseEcho) May 17, 2022
“We know there is a lot of disappointment that we have not fulfilled the potential that we believe we could have,” he said.
“The main thing is that we learn from this as a club and as a team, and that we don’t sit here in a year and have the same conversation. That’s the frustrating thing, when you keep making the same mistakes.
“Now it’s about finding the level of consistency which separates the top teams from the lower teams, you might lose a game but then it’s about not picking up no points in the next three or four.”
As captain, and the shining example in a confidence-shot squad, Ward-Prowse has his role to play picking his teammates up and giving Saints’ impressive away support something positive to end on.
“I have to remind everybody of the good moments we have had this season, remind them that we can do it,” Ward-Prowse insisted.
James Ward-Prowse's message to #SaintsFC's U18s. 🏆
💬 "I think it is a fantastic achievement from them. I have been close to winning the league when I was with the U18s and it is an incredible achievement. Hopefully they can go one step further tonight. pic.twitter.com/AGIm40QRkb
— Alfie House (@AlfieHouseEcho) May 19, 2022
“We can play at a really good level and when we play well, not many teams can live with us. It’s making sure that everybody has got that motivation to finish the season as well as we can.”
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this article - we appreciate your support in reading the Daily Echo.
Subscribing to the Echo means you have unrestricted access to the latest news, features and Saints coverage - all with an advertising-light website.
You will also have full access to Saintsplus, your new home for Southampton FC tactical analysis, features and much, much more.
Don't take my word for it - subscribe here to see for yourself.
Follow the latest breaking news in the Southampton area by joining our Facebook group - Southampton News - Breaking News and Incidents