By SFC Media Wed 10 Jan First team

Goalkeeper relishing his recent call-up after making a club Premier League bow against Man United.

Alex McCarthy has patiently waited in the wings for his time to shine. Now it has arrived, he is grabbing it with both gloves.

The former Crystal Palace stopper has had to be persistent in his quest for a first XI shirt, but was rewarded with a starting berth against Manchester United in December and hasn't looked back since.

McCarthy, 28, had been limited to Under-23s appearances prior to the Old Trafford clash, but after leading Saints to their first shutout since October, has retained his authority between the sticks.

Now with two clean sheets in three games, the Reading Academy graduate is justifying his selection, and admitted that his Premier League debut was the 'perfect start'.

"Old Trafford is a place everyone wants to play at, in those big games, so it was nice to come in for that one," the stopper revealed.

"It was pretty much the perfect start. It would’ve been better to get the three points, but obviously it was nice to get a clean sheet and a point away from home.

"It’s amazing to be back playing. The last few seasons I’ve been frustrated with lack of playing time and injuries.

"To get out the other side of that and be back playing, it feels really good."

A commanding performance at Old Trafford provided McCarthy with the ideal platform

After suffering a hamstring injury last year, McCarthy has had to bide his time as understudy to Fraser Forster, and is continuing to learn his trade alongside experienced veteran Stu Taylor.

Commenting on the rapport between the club's goalkeeping cohort, he said: "It’s excellent. We’ve got a great school of goalkeepers here.

"With Dave Watson, we’re all supporting each other and pushing each other because we want to get better. I think we’re very lucky. It’s a very close goalkeeping unit!

"Obviously when Fraser was playing, me and Stu were supporting him as much as we could and pushing him as much as we could, and it’s vice-versa now."

Southampton's goalkeeping trio in action, during a recent warm-up at St Mary's

For any professional footballer, a spell on the sidelines requires endurance, not to mention the desire and readiness to be prepared when called upon.

McCarthy explains that the overriding feelings of excitement were enough to curtail any pre-match jitters, despite the anticipation of a first start for Saints at the home of - arguably - one of the biggest clubs in world football.

He describes the series of emotions: "You’re just excited. You occasionally get the nerves the night before, but nothing unusual.

"On the day of the game, you’re just buzzing to get out there and play. The manager pulled me on the Friday before training, so I knew before the session. I went out and trained like I do every day and prepared the game as I would usually.

"There was nothing in particular the manager said to me. He just told me to go out there and do what I do.

"I feel like I’ve come into the team, had a good start and long may it last."

And McCarthy's form has ensured that his first XI shirt has stuck, but he's all too aware that his match sharpness will have to uphold in order to ensure the manager's faith continues.

"It’s obviously a nice feeling and I want to give back to Mauricio as much as possible, and to the team," he asserted.

"I’m loving it. Obviously to get the clean sheet at Old Trafford was nice, and then at the weekend [against Fulham] as well.

"Hopefully we can have a few more clean sheets and a lot more three points. As you tick the games off, you gradually feel better and better, and stronger and stronger.

"Now that I’m back fit, the main thing for me is to stay fit. I’m very hungry and I want to play every game, so we’ll see where it takes us."

Another clean sheet against Fulham ensured Saints progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup

Guilford born, McCarthy has now settled on the south coast, after the 2016 switch from Palace, and is intent on ensuring Saints' current plight improves - starting with this weekend's trip to Watford.

He finished by saying: "It’s a position the players and everybody at the club doesn’t want to be in.

"We’re in it, and we know what we’ve got to do to get out of it.

"I think by winning against Fulham, even though it was only in the cup, it gives us a lot of confidence going into Saturday’s game at Watford where we know three points are imperative."