Theo Walcott is determined to show Southampton supporters his best form after turning his loan move from Everton into a permanent deal.
Last season Walcott embarked on a fairytale homecoming to the club that launched his career back in 2005/06, making 22 appearances and scoring three goals after 14 years away.
Now back at St Mary’s on a permanent basis having signed a two-year deal, the 32-year-old has his sights set on making a significant impression on the south coast once again.
“It sounds nice when you say it like that: permanent,” Walcott says with a smile, insisting it was an easy decision to stay.
“I wanted to work as hard as I could to be at this club. It really means a lot to me to be here.
“Now my kids can see where it all started off for me, so it’s like a full circle, and I’m really pleased. The team I feel is in a good place, and I’m really excited for the new season.
“What’s most important is we’re going to have fans back as well, which is going to be a big boost for everyone.”
Walcott has been reunited with his wife, Mel, and their two sons, having lived away from his family for much of last season, and hopes a settled home life will help boost performances on the pitch.
“It’s a big move and I’m still in the process of moving, so it’s not straightforward,” he explained.
“People don’t really see that we’re just normal people with normal things to do! I’ve got to be here now (Staplewood) and Mel’s at home trying to sort the house out.
“There’s a lot to do, but we’re excited as a family for our future ahead, because this is really important for us to be down here.
“I’m really excited for the year – it feels like you’re going to get the better me now. I lived on my own last year a lot, and that was quite hard, but now I have my family with me and you’re definitely going to get the better me.”
As fate would have it, Saints will begin the new season with a trip back to his former home, Goodison Park, on Saturday 14th August.
The following weekend, St Mary’s could be full for the first time since Walcott’s return, with Manchester United the visitors for the opening home game.
“You couldn’t make it up,” he said of the Everton reunion, now five weeks away. “I always look at all the fixtures – birthdays, Christmas, but that one caught my eye straightaway. You couldn’t have written it, it’s mad!
“There’s a lot to do before that game, obviously, with pre-season, and I can cross that bridge when it comes, but I’m really looking forward to going back there.”
On hosting United, he added: “That’s an exciting game for anyone to come back to. It’s been well speculated the signings that Manchester United are trying to get, so what a game to have.
“Full capacity for that would be great for the fans that can be there as well, and for me, personally, it means a lot.
“I had the small crowd, which still felt very big, because that’s how loud I felt they were, but it’s important for them to get behind us, support the team and be positive.
“I feel like, especially with what’s happened in the Euros as well, everyone seems so happy and that’s what we want to be like come matchday. Positive energy and vibes, definitely.”