Jan Bednarek has credited Ralph Hasenhüttl with revitalising his Southampton career after the Polish defender pen to paper on a new four-and-a-half-year contract at St Mary’s.
Bednarek arrived in England from Lech Poznań in his homeland at the tender age of 21, finding opportunities with the first team limited in his first 18 months as a Saint, but the appointment of Hasenhüttl as manager, two years ago this week, has transformed his fortunes.
Now 24, Bednarek has established himself as a regular starter for club and country, maturing into one of Saints’ most reliable and consistent performers.
“At the beginning of my career at Southampton I wasn’t playing, but they were always sure that I would be part of the team very soon, so I think from the beginning the club showed much faith in me, and I really appreciate it,” he said.
“Coming from the Polish league to England is a massive difference. I had to get used to that, find my way and how to become a Premier League player.
“I just had to work hard – that was the main thing – and then find the right coach who would see the potential in my way of playing. Then Ralph came and he gave me that chance.
“I think that was the game changer for me, and since then I started to grow up as a player.
“I have no idea how it happened that he came and after a few days he was there he gave me the chance to play against Cardiff.
“There was something in his mind – I don’t know what it was! – but he decided to give a chance to the young centre-back who didn’t play at all in the season.
“I took my chance and I think that was a really good moment, because I proved I can really give something as a player to the team and to Southampton. Since then, I try to do my best to help the team and win games.
“I would say both of my games, defensive and offensive, and working with the ball under the manager I have improved a lot.
“He’s a very demanding man and I really like it, because that means he really wants me to become a better player and a better human being.”