To celebrate his 27th birthday, club captain James Ward-Prowse watches back some of his most memorable matches in a Southampton shirt...
#1 Senior debut vs Crystal Palace
This does make me feel old seeing this. You always work towards your first, so to get to this moment was pretty special – nerve-wracking for sure. I was more nervous about the fact that I had to sing on my first away trip rather than the game itself! I remember Jack Cork was very important for me that day – he really assured me, gave me a lot of good advice and made me feel at home and comfortable straightaway. What did you sing? I think it was The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script. The funny thing is no one there now knows or thinks I’ve sung a song, because everyone’s moved on and it’s such a different changing room now!
#2 First senior goal vs Coventry
I’ve ghosted into the box like a natural striker there! I had a Powerade at half-time, so my tongue was blue. You don’t really think about scoring in those games – you just want to please the manager and get trust from your teammates. To do it was a pinch-myself moment, and a very special goal in my career.
#85 First Premier League goal vs Hull
At the time that penalty was given, I thought, ‘it’s not me’. I think Sadio (Mané) wanted to take it, and then José (Fonte) came up from the side of the pitch where Ronald Koeman was, and said I was taking the penalty. I thought, ‘me?!’ But he trusted me. I’d never really taken penalties before, so I hadn’t practiced and didn’t have a stock penalty in mind. I knew the pressure was on, I think it was 0-0 at the time, so to get an important goal was a pretty special moment.
#88 First (and only) red card vs Sunderland
I remember giving the ball away on the halfway line. I’d always been taught to amend your mistakes, so I thought, ‘I’ve got to get back’, and that’s what I got for doing it. If I hadn’t run back, maybe Maya (Yoshida) would’ve tackled him. I wasn’t trying to get back, trying to be honest, but Defoe was clever, he knew I was coming and I couldn’t really get out of the way. I remember Koeman saying we played better in the second half with 10 men, and I felt really, really small. That was a real dark moment for me to let the team down, but it happens, I was young and you learn from it going forward, which I definitely have done.
#115 First free-kick vs West Brom
This was a big one. It’s special, because for me it’s a perfect example for anything in life –especially in sport – that if you can practice as much as you can and as well as you can at a certain skill, for it to come off in a high-pressured situation was really pleasing. It was starting to get to me a little bit, because I’d never scored a free-kick, and I’d had a couple of opportunities before that. To get that first one took all that pressure off me and gave me the hunger to keep practising more and more. To get that acceptance that all my hard work had paid off was really important for me.
#142 Beating Inter in the Europa League
This was a special night, one of those moments in your career when you have to look around, come away from the intensity of the game and actually see where you are and what you’re doing. As a kid growing up through the Academy, you just want to be a professional footballer and make that first appearance, but here you are playing in a packed stadium against one of the biggest clubs in Italy and probably the world in Inter Milan. To not only play against them but to beat them was an incredible feeling. I’ve never been so tired after a game – it was a mentally tough game, a physically tough game, but probably one of the best moments in a Southampton shirt.
#161 The EFL Cup final vs Man Utd
This is probably my favourite time in a Southampton shirt. People will say you lost the cup final in dramatic, heart-breaking fashion, but when you stepped out at Wembley – I’ve got the goosebumps now – you saw half of the stadium full of red and white Saints fans singing all the songs. To play the way we did I think epitomised what the club is about – challenging the big teams. We had Man United on the ropes, I think if Oriol’s (Romeu) header went off the post in another direction, we’d have been in front. That was an incredibly proud day, not only for me but all of my family.
#220 Confronting Wilfried Zaha
I’ve watched this a few times myself! Having just scored there’s a bit of adrenaline going through you, a real buzz, and I was expecting the referee to blow up for a foul. I knew Zaha was a dangerous opponent for me to play against and I wanted to try to nip it in the bud early, but he didn’t react too well, did he? I think it was a part of my game that was slowly developing because of the new manager, and, I can’t lie, I did enjoy that second half. It was a nice memorable game, for more reasons than one.
#226 Winning free-kick vs Tottenham
Every free-kick feels like an amazing achievement to score one, because I think it’s a tough skill to execute. What I liked with this one was the importance of the game. We were in a difficult situation – I can’t remember what the points were, but we needed to win, and obviously we came back into the game with Yan (Valery, who equalised). It’s those moments you dream of in your mum and dad’s garden – you’ll be out for a long time practising, trying to replicate special free-kicks, and to score a winning free-kick of that quality at home in front of the fans was everything that I would try to replicate. To pull it off in a game like that against Tottenham was probably my favourite moment of my career so far.
#242 Derby day joy vs Portsmouth
I thought this might come up! Everybody knows my history, and everybody was texting me and calling me straightaway after the draw had been made to wish me luck and say how excited they were to see it. I remember the build-up to that game was weird, doing everything to not get injured – that was my worst thought. It was a special moment for me to play against Portsmouth. I wanted to go to the corner with Danny (Ings) and make the most of the moment after his second goal, but we had to escape because we were getting hit by coins! It could’ve been difficult – they started the game really well, with three or four big opportunities, but we showed our class and our Premier League quality to win the game and deservedly so. I remember running around the living room when the draw got made because it was an unbelievable scene in my living room – I wish I’d recorded it.
#286 Two free-kicks vs Aston Villa
My 26th birthday! An amazing day really – I couldn’t have had a better birthday. It’s cheesy to say, but what else could I want? To be playing in the Premier League and scoring goals like that, it was a special day. It makes me laugh that Jannik (Vestergaard) celebrates the exact same on both the goals, he just spins around with his arms out. I always say to my little boy Oscar before I leave for a game, ‘what should my celebration be?’ He loves golf, he plays it all the time, so I said I’ll do a golf swing for him. Hopefully it’ll inspire him to be a Southampton player one day and take free-kicks as well!
This is only a condensed version of the full interview with the skipper, which you can also watch on our official YouTube channel.watch james ward-prowse react to his best bits on youtube