‘That is the moment you accept he is a player that can help you’: Ralph Hasenhuttl marvels at James Ward-Prowse’s fight to win a Southampton spot by adding goals to his game
- Ralph Hasenhuttl praised James Ward-Prowse’s desire to win his place back
- The 24-year-old was on the fringes but was handed a chance due to injuries
- Ward-Prowse hasn’t missed a minute since his recall to the side in late December
- He is Southampton’s top scorer from Hasenhuttl’s 13 games in charge
Ralph Hasenhuttl praised James Ward-Prowse’s ability to go from disaffected 19th man to Southampton’s ever-present driving force.
Ward-Prowse, 24, has been touted for an England return after stringing together an impressive spell in the heart of midfield, scoring four times.
The dead-ball specialist has added steel and goals to his game and hasn’t missed a minute since his recall to the side in late December.
Ralph Hasenhuttl praised James Ward-Prowse’s transformation to Southampton’s driving force
Yet Ward-Prowse was not in the squad for Hasenhuttl’s third match in charge and admitted he considered his future under the new boss as he watched a 3-1 win at Huddersfield.
Hasenhuttl spoke glowingly of Ward-Prowse’s reaction to that nadir.
‘It was an interesting way he took since I was here. At first he was not part of the 18 at Huddersfield, so it was not easy for him,’ he said.
‘He took the chance, Mario Lemina was injured and Oriol Romeu was suspended and he got the chance to play at right back or in the No 8 and he showed what I was demanding from him he can bring on the pitch.
‘That is the moment where you start to trust a player, where you start to get confidence with him and to accept he is a player that can help you.
Hasenhuttl spoke glowingly of Ward-Prowse’s form and goalscoring exploits for the Saints
‘He is young, he is physically very strong, he can play all three games in a week with a lot of running. That is no problem for him and that is a good basic of being successful in the future.’ Ward-Prowse – who has made over 100 Premier League appearances – was also used sparingly under former boss Mark Hughes.
Ward-Prowse is top scorer from Hasenhuttl’s 13 games in charge, and the Austrian praised his new-found goalscoring ability.
‘I think it comes automatically because he is now more in a position where he has a chance to score. OK, to score outside the box like he did against Everton, I think, is not so easy, but in the other situations he was in the box, he was following with his deep runs.
‘The last game was a perfect example, I think for his target, he is focusing on scoring because he went after this ball where Reddy was shooting on the goal. That helps him to come off more often in this position where he gets something, he earns something.
‘He has the physical quality to come there, but also in the moment he smells it, where he can get something. And he is there, and that I think that is very important for us.’
On Ward-Prowse’s chances of adding to his one international cap, earned in a friendly against Germany in 2017, Hasenhuttl said: ‘It’s not my decision to take. It’s Gareth Southgate who has this decision to take.’
After a vital win against Fulham in midweek, struggling Southampton head to Manchester United this weekend. They have only lost once at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Hasenhuttl paid tribute to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side are unbeaten in the Premier League since the Norwegian took over in December.
England manager Gareth Southampton has also been keeping an eye on the 24-year-old
‘To be unbeaten since he took the job is amazing, it is outrageous,’ the Austrian said.
But Hasenhuttl is hoping to give the Norwegian a taste of his own medicine by playing his joker.
Solskjaer was known as a super sub during his playing career, and Hasenhuttl revealed the German equivalent.
‘We call it a joker. I also was a guy who was not the best player from the starting XI, because of my weak fitness I had always! But I was a player when I was coming in I was immediately scoring.
‘It is a quality to have this as a player, absolutely. And every team needs such a guy, normally because it helps a lot.’ Charlie Austin hit a late winner at Old Trafford on his Southampton debut three years ago, and Hasenhuttl hopes the striker can have a similar effect.
Asked who his side’s joker is, he replied: ‘Chas showed against Arsenal that he comes in and he is immediately part of the game, very clever. And immediately can score. Mainly these are the experienced players. They have this special feeling to come in and be immediately part of the game.’