He has waited patiently to make his mark in the Premier League, but now Angus Gunn's goalkeeping education is coming to the fore.
Angus Gunn did not want to be a goalkeeper like his father, Bryan, Norwich City legend of over 400 appearances.
His resistance did not last very long, though. In-game injuries at youth level lead to a surprising number of ‘keeping careers and this case was no different.
Originally trialling as a forward for Norwich Under-8s, Angus found himself deputising in goal after one such incident.
Within a year, he had signed Academy terms with the Canaries and it was the beginning of something special. Another Gunn, another naturally gifted goalkeeper.
“I didn’t fall into it as you might think because of my dad, I wanted to be different and be a striker,” he says after lunch at Staplewood Campus ahead of this weekend’s game.
“That’s more enjoyable when you’re a kid. I must have played a blinder in that game because the coach told me to bring my gloves next time.
“Dad worked at the club and I’d seen pictures and videos around the place and the crowd’s reaction to him when they saw him.
“Some people thought that put pressure on me; it didn’t, if anything it made me want to concentrate on myself even more.
“Making my own name and changing what people said was a motivator for me and hopefully they just know me now as Angus.”
Moving to Manchester City on the dawn of a new era of success, saving three penalties against Borussia Dortmund in one of his first tastes of first-team action, featuring in every game for boyhood club Norwich on loan last season and being named man of the match on his Premier League debut have all made sure of that.
As a result, it is easy to see why the 23-year-old has long been earmarked as a regular fixture with the Three Lions on the back of his own self-driven momentum – through the age groups with Norwich and the national team – towards looking at ease in his maiden season in the top flight with Saints.
A few years on from putting on his gloves for the very first time, his cohort at Norwich were making waves at every level and word was getting out about the talent coming out of East Anglia.
“I played up a year from Under-11s and I just grew up with lads that were older with me and it went from there,” he recalls. “A lot of them went on to play professionally.
“When you’re young, you don’t think how far you can make it in the game but we were beating everyone and people realised what a good team we were.
“My age group won the FA Youth Cup the year after I left and that was the reward for a really good few years together.”
With family based back in the north west and his father relocating for work, the stars aligned for a move to Manchester City when Angus was 15.
Leaving Norwich behind was hard – little did he know, he would be back to unleash the potential the Canaries had helped to harness within a matter of years – but the move to Manchester would prove to be the perfect finishing school at a time when the City project was just beginning.
“When a chance like that comes up you have to take it,” he says. “The season before I left, my dad was let go from his role at Norwich and most of our family was in Manchester so it all fell into place, it was the perfect place to go and at the perfect time.
“They showed me the vision for the training ground and the campus and I couldn’t really say no.
“It was very much in the planning stage when I arrived and it happened so quickly. I went straight into the Under-18s and at the time, the facilities were spread across the city.
“Kids in the Elite Development Squad were rushing across town if they were called up to train with the firsts but the new start-of-the art site with all teams training together, like what we have here, changed everything.”
It also provided the platform for the youngster to announce himself to the football world at large.
Included in Pep Guardiola’s first pre-season squad, the then 19-year-old seized the opportunity with both hands, so to speak.
“That pre-season when Pep came in was incredible for me,” he continues the story.
“We played Bayern Munich and I played 45 minutes at the Allianz Arena but the week after we played Dortmund in China and it was bigger; I saved three penalties in the shootout. All my time there was positive and I wouldn’t change any of it.”
For a player for whom a career in goal seemed fated – despite his early attacking dreams as an eight-year-old – a storybook return to Norwich on loan was hardly surprising, and the perfect segue from his further education at Man City. This was his time to shine, and how.
angus gunnwe played bayern munich and i played 45 minutes at the allianz arena but the week after we played dortmund in china and it was bigger; i saved three penalties in the shootout.
on playing for manchester city
It would prove to be the making of him, returning home to Norfolk to feature in every game of their promotion push, making 56 appearances in total.
“You see a lot of players going on loan and moving away from their families but going back to Norwich was weird and just amazing at the same time,” he says.
“It felt comfortable, pretty much from the first day I knew the place and the majority of the lads as well.
“It felt like home and it paid off massively. I performed really well when I was there and to get that experience of playing every week was amazing: to get it at Norwich, where I grew up, just made it that bit more unbelievable.
“Playing competitively is everything; I played over 50 games last season and got more confident every week. I would recommend any player anywhere to just find that chance to play.”
A breakthrough had been made and a Gunn story continued at Carrow Road but a shot at the Premier League would always be the next step for a keeper who, by then, was a regular with England’s Under-21s.
Another loan move was an option but a visit to Staplewood and a meeting with Saints staff in the days leading up to the resumption of pre-season training for the 2018/19 season left him in no doubt as what and where the next step up would be.
“We made the decision pretty early that I wanted to move on from City and have a new challenge,” he reveals.
“I wanted to get out again and play games, I came and met the staff here and in my head, I was completely set on coming here.
“Everyone here helped a lot to get us settled in and it’s a beautiful part of the world. It’s nice and relaxed and it’s good to get away from the football when I’m home.”
Saints’ number 28, girlfriend Phoebe and French bulldog Elvis are now settled in Winchester for this new chapter that started slowly but is now bursting into life after a consistent run of games under Ralph Hasenhüttl.
Early frustration after premature exits in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup have given way to renewed confidence and an added desire to retain his spot.
Gunn was made to wait until January for his Premier League debut and he proved his readiness in style, delivering a man-of-the-match performance as the last line of a dogged Saints defence at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s been a good first season so far, frustrating at times, but you need that in football to keep you going,” he reasons.
“Before the Chelsea game, the season took an age to start for me. We had a decent run in the cup but as soon as that finished it was a long period before I was back in.
“It’s a really good environment to work in. We bounce off each other in training, everyone’s supporting each other.
“Whoever’s playing gets the backing of the others and it’s a great team to work in with Dave (Watson) and three other talented guys in Alex (McCarthy), Fraser (Forster) and Harry (Lewis).
“I didn’t know I’d be playing until the day before so it was a real wake up. I didn’t get in and stay in straight away but I’d made that extra step that night and the performance gave me the extra confidence I needed.”
As Saints have moved through the gears under Hasenhüttl, so too has Gunn. Since the turn of the year, he has the best shots to save ratio in the Premier League, keeping out 86 per cent of the efforts he has faced.
When informed of it, he responds with characteristic modesty and points to the squad’s feeling after the defeat to Liverpool as a sign of the collective progress going on at St Mary’s.
“Sometimes I’m in the right place at the right time and I guess the shots just haven’t been very good!” he grins. “As long as we’re winning games, it doesn’t matter if I’m making five saves or none.
“I’m sure I’ll look back on this spell at the end of the season and be proud of it but you need to try and stay in the moment while it’s happening.
“If we keep going the way we are and repeating the big performances we’ve had then we have a great chance of finishing higher up the table.
“If you’re frustrated after losing in the final minutes to a side that’s top of the league then you know you’re going in the right direction.”
If the trajectory of both continue in the same manner, there are exciting times ahead for a goalkeeper for whom a breakthrough Premier League season is just the beginning of his own story on the south coast.