Nathaniel Clyne says he has raised his game in a bid to hold onto his place in the Southampton team.
Clyne, who missed the opening two matches of the campaign as he worked his way back from an injury sustained in pre-season, has had to earn the right-back spot all over again by ousting youngster Calum Chambers in the last two Barclays Premier League fixtures.
The full back has responded well to a troubled summer and he told Saints Player that he is now eager to make up for lost time as he prepares to face his former side Crystal Palace tomorrow.
“I was disappointed to get injured during pre-season, but these things happen – it’s football and you’ve got to get on with it, really,” he explained.
“[Calum] Chambers has come in and done well so I’ve had to up my game and work harder in training to get myself fit. I’ve got myself back into the team now and hopefully I’ll stay there.
“Having a challenge is always healthy within a team as it makes everyone work harder. It improves your game knowing that someone is behind you to challenge for your spot, so I’m up for that challenge and hopefully I’ll keep on putting in good performances.”
Clyne was statistically one of Saints’ best performers in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Liverpool, making one of the highest number of tackles per game over the course of one top-flight match in recent history, and he described how much it meant to the team:
“It was a big win and a big performance from the lads,” said Clyne. “We all stepped up our game to go away to Anfield where not may teams go to win but we did it there and we played our football to deserve our victory.
“We went out there and attacked them and I think they were surprised really with how we played, but that’s what we’re doing this season. We’re surprising teams by going out there and giving it our all to attack and score more goals.
“The gaffer wants us to play passing football on the deck with players moving and we’ve kept clean sheets as well, so we’ve been solid defensively too, which is good.”
This weekend’s game will be special for another reason, as Nathaniel prepares to take on the club he departed from to join Saints last year – and the defender admits that it’s a contest he’s been looking forward to.
“I’m excited,” he smiled. “It’s the first time that I’m going to have played against my old club, Crystal Palace.
“I get to see a few of my old teammates, and hopefully it will be a good game where we’ll get the three points.
“If we win then I’ll get a chance to have a little laugh with the lads that are still there and that I used to play with, and it should be a good game.
“I’ve been following their progress into the Premier League from last season and they did really well,” he continued. “They’ve added to their squad as well to make it stronger but, yes, we’ll have a good go and hopefully we’ll continue our winning form.”
Ahead of the third home league game of the season, Clyne is expecting a difficult test as he believes that teams are tempted to stifle Southampton rather than come here to play. Palace are not known for that style under manager Ian Holloway, but Nathaniel warns that Saints might need to be patient.
“It’ll be tough again,” he admitted. “Most teams that come here sit back and defend, but hopefully we can get an early goal which will bring them out a bit and we can then score a few more goals to get the win.
“Teams that come here tend to sit and make it hard for us so it’s difficult to play out and attack to catch us on the counter. We’ve got the quality to break down opposition so hopefully we can show it again on Saturday.”