Ryan Bertrand says he’s had a spring in his step during training over the last week following the conclusion of his three-game suspension.
The left-back missed the trip to QPR and the home games against West Ham United and Liverpool following his red card against Swansea City at the start of February.
But he could return to the side for the final game of the month as Saints travel to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion, looking to bounce back from the disappointment suffered against Liverpool on Sunday.
And Bertrand says knowing he could be back involved against the Baggies has given him a real boost on the training pitch over the past week.
“It feels like ages, even with all this build-up coming now,” Bertrand told the Southern Daily Echo. “It’s just dragged and dragged, just training and training for no cause.
“Obviously I’ve ben working hard, keeping sharp, keeping strong in the gym, maintaining it, but when you’ve got nothing to unleash it on at the weekend it’s to no avail.
“I’m really excited for this weekend. I’ve been buzzing all week. As soon as the game on Sunday was over I wasn’t smiling at the result obviously, but I felt good knowing I could go training Monday and train with a real purpose.”
Bertrand went to watch both of the home games Saints had during his suspension, but admits missing out knowing he was fit and able to play made it tougher.
“This is the first time I’ve been sent off, so this is the first time I’ve not been available for a period and not been injured. I think when you’re not injured it’s even worse,” continued Bertrand.
“When you’re injured you know you can’t [do anything], it’s just about getting back right and getting back fit, but for this one I’ve been fit and ready. I didn’t have much fulfilment.
“I like to train, I like to play games – win, lose or draw – it leaves me with some kind of emotion at the weekend and the fact I was missing that emotion on the Saturday, it had a weird feeling about it.
“I went to the games and watched, but you can’t get that emotional feeling or that connection. I wouldn’t take a day off because I didn’t feel like I deserved it.”
Saturday’s game could see Bertrand feature for the first time since becoming a permanent Southampton player, and the left-back believes it’s a vital game for Ronald Koeman’s side.
“It’s very crucial,” he added. “Our next two fixtures, we need to go out there, with positive performances, positive results and get back to the standards we’ve set previously.
“If you forget what’s happened before and at the start of the season fast forward to now and say we’re fifth, one point off it with 12 games to go, I think the fans would be elated with that.
“But we’re in this profession and we’ve set high standards and we haven’t fulfilled that in recent weeks and it’s down to us to put that right.”