Nathan Redmond got his Southampton career off to a flying start on the opening weekend of the new Premier League season.
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Redmond, 22, scored Saints’ equalizer against Watford in the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, forced their goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes into two fine saves and also had a late goal disallowed for a marginal offside call.
Involved in so much goal-mouth action already, Redmond has seen his position transform from a winger into a striker since his $13 million summer move from Norwich City to Saints.
Speaking to ProSoccerTalk, Redmond revealed his delight following a promising debut last weekend.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to score in front of the home fans on my debut,” Redmond said. “I wanted to get off to a good start here at Southampton Football Club and I hope I can build on this going forward. We’ve got some important games coming up and I hope I can continue to contribute and help the team.”
New Saints manager Claude Puel previously worked closely with Thierry Henry and helped transform Henry from a winger into a striker during his coaching days at AS Monaco.
Puel has spoken about similarities he sees between Henry and Redmond but the Southampton man is trying to focus on himself, despite admitting he looked up to Henry growing up.
“Obviously it is nice to be compared to someone as successful in the game as Thierry Henry but I like to focus on my own game and not get too far ahead of myself. I’m concentrated on trying to improve in every training session and playing as well as I can for Southampton,” Redmond said. “Henry is a Premier League great who I always watched when I was growing up. His blistering pace coupled with his finishing ability made him one of the most feared strikers in the world. He’s someone that inspired me as a boy and someone that I have always looked up to.”
With Saints selling forwards Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer, Redmond has launched himself ahead of Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez in the pecking order at the club and started the opener alongside Shane Long.
So, has this switch from winger to striker been easy? And how has he settled in at his new club?
“I actually played as a striker in the Toulon tournament [for England] this summer but I’ve always tried to play with attacking freedom and take the opposition defenders on, so I’m really enjoying this new role. Something I want to work on this season is getting in the right place to score more goals and hopefully this new position gives me the perfect opportunity,” Redmond continued. “All the players and staff have been absolutely fantastic with me and have really helped me to settle in quickly. Everybody at the club is extremely friendly and welcoming and there is a really strong family spirit around the training ground and the stadium”
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Looking ahead to the Europa League group stage, Redmond played in the competition as a teenager with Birmingham City and he admits it is something he hopes he and his Southampton teammates embrace. Saints have reached this stage of the competition for the first time in their history and there is plenty of excitement ahead of draw for the group stage taking place next Friday in Monaco.
“Naturally I am really looking forward to testing myself on the European stage and playing against some of the best teams on the continent,” Redmond said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play in the competition in the past and I know it will make me push myself further in my development. It’s a fantastic challenge for everyone at Southampton FC and one that we can’t wait to take on.”
Heading in to the first Friday game of the PL season at Old Trafford against Man United (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on USA Network and online via NBC Sports) with Jose Mourinho making his home debut and Paul Pogba set to feature for the first time since his world-record $120 million transfer from Juventus, Redmond and Saints aren’t daunted.
In fact, Saints haven’t lost at Old Trafford for the last three seasons and have won back-to-back games 1-0 at the Theatre of Dreams. That said, Redmond admits it won’t be easy but Saints are confident.
“Playing against a great team in one of the biggest stadiums in the world is something we are looking forward to. As a player, you want to play in these types of games and show what you are about. We head to Old Trafford with confidence and belief and look forward to imposing our game plan,” Redmond said.
Looking ahead to the future, Redmond’s form for England’s U-21 side this summer, plus his fast start for Saints this season, could mean that new England boss Sam Allardyce may think about giving the pacey attacker a call up in his first England squad in early September.
That’s something Redmond is hoping will take care of itself, but the level-headed youngster has aspirations to kick on following his promising start to life as a Saint.
“Obviously playing for your country at senior level is something that every player wants to achieve. First and foremost though, I have to concentrate on my performances at Southampton and see where it takes me,” Redmond said.