By SFC Media time Tue 24 Sep Portsmouth v Saints

Midfielder understands the significance of ending Southampton's long wait for a win at Fratton Park.

“If one day I left and I’d never played in this match… I’d be sad. I’m very pleased to play this game.”

Oriol Romeu could not believe his luck when he discovered Southampton’s next Carabao Cup opponents.

Now in his fifth year as a Saint, Romeu has experienced more than his fair share of ups and downs.

In that period, the club has finished in the top six of the Premier League, qualified for Europe, reached a cup final and twice dug deep to avoid relegation.

But one thing that has eluded him has been the chance to play in a south coast derby – an opportunity he feared may pass him by.

“I’m really looking forward to it – it’s going to be a good one and I want to make sure we are on the winning side, and the team that is going to the next round,” Romeu said.

“We have to take it as a normal game. I know the fans won’t do that, but we have to face it with the same ambition and the same character.

“In the end it’s one game, in the end it’s football – we don’t want people to go mad and do stupid things.

“For us as players, we know what we can do and we will do our best to win this game.”

Whilst the nationalities in the Saints dressing room stretch right across the globe, led by an Austrian manager in Ralph Hasenhüttl, Romeu is quick to allay any fears that the current crop do not understand the significance of this unique fixture. 

“I think they’ve realised by now how much the fans are appreciating this match,” the midfielder said of his teammates.

“It’s the matter of a reaction. Sometimes you don’t need to tell them – they just see it from the fans.

“Since the cup draw was out, everyone has been saying, ‘you can win now, but you have to make sure you win that game against Portsmouth’.

“Everything else was put aside, like it doesn’t matter anymore. That’s the game now, that’s the moment.

“I go for a coffee and everyone says, ‘make sure you win that game’, or you are in a lift with a Southampton fan and he says, ‘you’re doing well now, but you have to win that game’.

“They make you feel how important it is, and we all know it.”

A player who loves to play on the edge, Romeu can’t wait to embrace the passionate atmosphere at Fratton Park. 

“That’s why I’m looking forward to this game,” he added. “As I said before, it’s only one game, but sometimes there is more feeling and emotion, and the crowd will be so excited and so noisy that it brings you to another part of your game.

“It will be nice as a player to experience that and to have that. If I’m there in the middle, everybody knows that every duel and every ball will be very competitive.

“Although they are playing in League One now, they won’t give anything away and they will fight even more for those duels and for those balls.

“For myself as a player, I really enjoy that. It’s so nice to see someone who really wants to outdo you and really wants to go for it – it makes it better.

“I think sometimes if you have a weak opponent, or a guy who doesn’t want to defend or run, it’s not the same.

“If they really want it, it makes you think ‘you’re not having this one’. It makes it nicer for a player.”

Romeu is reminded that, by the end of the night, on the day he celebrates his 28th birthday, somebody will make themselves a hero – even a legend.

He knows the history. Seven years since the last meeting. Fourteen years since the last Saints win. Thirty-five years since the last Saints win at Fratton Park.

“In that moment, in that situation… sometimes you can be there and history wants to remember you because of that, especially because we haven’t played against each other for a long time,” he reflects.

“I’ll take a win, a good performance and a good feeling from the team. 

“Now it’s a moment where those feelings come back again. Everyone is saying, ‘we have the chance to beat them, we are in a higher situation, we are the favourites in this game, we should beat them and we should be much better than them’.

“But these derbies and these matches make football more interesting. They give us, as players, an extra joy to play in. As a player, you love these ones. These are the ones you enjoy the most.

“I know for the fans also, but for you as a player, you can go out there, do your job and have the greatest feeling you can have.”

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