Charlie Austin is itching to play his part in Southampton’s critical run-in having returned to first-team training after a three-month injury lay-off.
The striker tore his hamstring in the 1-1 draw with Huddersfield at St Mary’s back in December.
By scoring earlier in the game, Austin took his 2017/18 Premier League tally to six goals in five starts, but has been powerless to prevent Saints’ struggles since.
“It’s been a frustrating time, being injured. It wasn’t like being out for two weeks – it’s been 14 weeks now,” he said.
“I was in such good form and that was the hard thing, because I’d had to bide my time for ages to get in.
“When I did get in, it was all going well personally. I was helping the team and we weren’t losing many games.
“Then the injury came and I thought ‘this is all I need’. I knew I’d done something bad because I’ve done a few hamstrings before but never as bad as that.
“I worked with the team – all the medical staff and the fitness guys – to get where I am now.
“Whilst that was going on, as a team we were underperforming and that’s why we’re in the situation we are.
“Verbally you can help the team, but it’s a physical sport and you need to be on the pitch helping them – that’s what I couldn’t do.”
charlie austinit's pressure. some people like being in those scenarios, some people hide from it. you've got to embrace it - as men and as footballers.
Now with his sights set on a return to Premier League action, Austin is ready to embrace the pressure that comes with that, as a consequence of Saints’ precarious position in the table.
“It’s good to have that light at the end of the tunnel and this is the last tick in the box – it’s great to be back with the lads,” he added.
“All the hard work I’ve done with the physios and Bill (Styles, first team sports scientist) has paid off and hopefully I can stay fit until the end of the season.
“Now I’m back, we’ve got a big eight weeks and I’ll put all my energy into helping the team drive forward to stay in the Premier League.
“It’s pressure. Some people like being in those scenarios, some people hide from it.
“You’ve got to embrace it – as men and as footballers. We’re under a lot of pressure at the moment, don’t get me wrong, but we need to push forward.
“Being a big character that I am and part of this great team, I feel there’s enough character, talent and work ethic, and with the new coaching staff coming in with new ideas, it’s going to really help us.”