Interview: Walker-Peters on Saints' cup journey

By SFC Media time Sat 17 Apr Leicester City vs Saints

2020/21, where to begin? It's been a season of mixed emotions for players and fans alike. Not least because of the absence of supporters inside stadiums up and down the country.

It's probably safe to say that Southampton's faithful in particular have endured more highs and lows than your average football fan this term.

From the dizzying heights of the Premier League summit in November and beating reigning champions Liverpool in January, to a run of results which has seen Ralph Hasenhüttl's side drop further down the table than most predicted or even expected.

One thing that has remained consistent, though, has been scintillating form in the FA Cup. A competition that Saints have history with, but history that only the older generation of Saints fans will be able to recall with any fondness. There was the semi-final appearance of 2017/18, which represents Saints' most recent outing at Wembley Stadium, but the encounter itself wasn't necessarily one for the memory bank.

Someone who is hoping to change all of that is Kyle Walker-Peters - a relatively new addition to the Southampton ranks, but one who has attracted attention for all of the right reasons this season.

no season is smooth or all plain-sailing, there is always going to be ups and downs.

kyle walker-peters

His spell in the treatment room coincided with Saints' second-half-of-the-season slump, but he's since made a successful return to the side, and has been speaking about how much he's enjoying life on the south coast since his permanent switch from Tottenham Hotspur.

"It's been great, I came here because I really enjoyed my time on loan," he began. "I felt like I had a really positive loan spell and have been able to carry that into this season so for me it's been good.

"No season is smooth or all plain-sailing, there is always going to be ups and downs. We enjoy the ups, and not so much the downs but you learn from those.

"You use them to improve; overall I think there's been plenty of positives this season and with these nine games remaining, we want to finish the season really strong."

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Kyle Walker-Peters of Southampton celebrates during the FA Cup fourth round match between Southampton FC and Arsenal FC, at St.Mary's stadium, on January 23, 2021 in Southampton, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Kyle Walker-Peters celebrating the opening goal against Arsenal at St Mary's

The contrast in fortunes over the past few months has been something that Walker-Peters himself has taken in his stride, having played his part in much of the success that Saints have garnered across a season like none before it. 

And whilst he's not been able to spend much time with the fanbase personally, he's still been able to recognise the support the team have received from afar.

"I like to think I've made a bit of an impression on the fanbase, which is always nice," he commented. "There's still more to come from myself and the team.

"First and foremost, I enjoy playing football. But generally I'm delighted to be here and really enjoying it.

"I do see a lot of the nice messages [from the fans], but it's hard to see everything. You do feel the love even without them inside the stadium because they're getting behind us."

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Southampton at full-time during the Premier League match between Southampton and Sheffield United at St Mary's Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. A limited number of spectators (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Chris Moorhouse/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Southampton's players interacting with the fans inside St Mary's after beating Sheffield Utd

Shifting focus to the FA Cup run, and Walker-Peters isn't shying away from magnitude of the occasion. Impressively, Saints are yet to concede in this year's competition - a record that the young defender is particularly proud of.

He's yet to make a career appearance in the final four of any cup competition, but is relishing the chance to take his place as part of Southampton's back four at Wembley, should the opportunity present itself on Sunday. 

"I've got a big opportunity here, in terms of potentially starting the game," he added. "For me, I take it as any other game. Go with full focus and do everything we can to win.

"Especially as a defender, I don't think we've conceded yet [in the FA Cup]. So yeah I've enjoyed it. It's special. Hopefully we can win the semi-final and get ourselves to a final.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Kyle Walker-Peters of Southampton celebrates goal before being rules offside during the FA Cup quarter-final between AFC Bournemouth and Southampton FC at Vitality Stadium on March 20, 2021 in Bournemouth, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.  (Photo by Isabelle Field/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Kyle Walker-Peters in quarter-final action against AFC Bournemouth

"I'm not claiming the goal [against Arsenal], but I'll take the assist. It's good for my numbers. Who knows? I'd love my debut goal to be at Wembley if it helps us get to a final.

"As long as we win the game, I'm not too fussed. I haven't played in a semi-final before, it will be really exciting for me and the whole team. It's an opportunity for us to make history so let's see what happens.

"We haven't spoken about previous seasons, but we're very focussed on this current cup run. Of course we want to create history and to do something special for the club, and for ourselves."


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