Nathan Redmond is looking to end a frustrating season on a high as stuttering Southampton head to Wembley for a crunch FA Cup semi-final clash with Leicester.
Having flourished during Project Restart, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side kicked on impressively at the start of the 2020/21 season and soared to the Premier League summit in November.
Southampton’s first time at the top in 32 years was always going to be short-lived, but the subsequent drop off has been alarming and they head to Wembley reeling from Monday’s 3-0 loss at embattled West Brom.
Saints look safe despite picking up just 10 points from 15 matches in 2021, with their FA Cup run providing much-needed positivity as the 1976 winners prepare to face the Foxes in Sunday’s semi-final.
“We’re looking forward to it,” forward Redmond told the PA news agency.
“We had aspirations of a cup run this season and we’re well on course with that. We know it’s going to be a difficult game.
“We’re all looking forward to it. I’m sure the fans are looking forward to it albeit they can’t be there, and I think it’s good for the club.”
Saints fans across the globe will be glued to the TV – and braced for irksome mentions of the 9-0 loss to the Foxes in 2019 – as Wembley finally opens its door to a small number of spectators.
There will be 4,000 local residents and NHS staff in attendance as the FA Cup semi-final acts as a test event, but fans are likely to form a significant part of the 20,000 crowd lined up for next month’s final.
“It was a little bit bittersweet when fans were allowed back in and obviously then there was a spike during Covid and then it had to sort of be shut down a little bit,” 2017 EFL Cup runner-up Redmond said.
“But it’s one of those things. It’s the times we’re in at the moment. Things are still up and down. Are we doing this? Are we not doing this? Is there going to be fans? Is there not?
“Of course football is nothing without fans because they bring the atmosphere, they bring the environment and I have to give credit to all the footballers playing at all the levels where a lot of fans would have meant a lot to them during the games where they needed them the most.
“During the restart it was weird but we sort of adapted to it now and I think everybody in football is missing it.
“Whether you’re a fan and you’re just waiting to get back into the stadium to watch a game or whether you’re a player or manager, it’s a vital part of football and I think is everyone is missing it.”
Southampton defeated Shrewsbury, holders Arsenal and Wolves to reach the quarter-finals, when Redmond’s brace inspired the side to a 3-0 win at neighbours Bournemouth.
It was the kind of performance that Saints fans became used to when voting him their 2018/19 player of the year, but things have been topsy-turvy since and Hasenhuttl called for him to kick on from his “very difficult season” after the win at Bournemouth.
Rather than shy away from such talk, Redmond accepts it and is looking to put any frustration into a positive place on Sunday and beyond.
“Whether you’re a footballer, whether you work 9-5, whatever it is you do, you do have down moments,” said Redmond, who was part of the Saints side that lost their FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea in 2018.
“We’re human beings at the end of the day but in this industry there is a perception that you are expected to be perfect all the time.
“We’re human. We’re not perfect all the time.
“I probably got into a stage where I was a little bit angry at, you know, things I considered as injustice or things I considered as not fair or angry at a couple of situations I’ve been in, whether it’s at training or in games where I’ve not been performing, and trying to pick yourself up out of those moments is tough.
“But I do believe that things happen for a reason and if I didn’t go through moments like that, which I have done throughout most of my career – being a footballer is always up and down – then it wouldn’t have put me in a position to be able to affect games, like I am now.
“I think it’s just taught me another lesson for not just for football but life.”