Guly do Prado is looking forward more than most to the 2013/14 campaign
This interview first appeared in the official Southampton matchday programme vs Stoke City on Sunday 19th May 2013.
It’s that time of year when most players are yearning for the summer break.
But not Southampton’s Brazilian striker Guly do Prado.
He’s dreaming of reasserting his challenge for a regular slot in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting line up.
“I need to show that I am worth a place in the team, and I must do that in the pre-season,” says the Saints star who arrived at the club in 2010.
In as many words, the popular frontman has got to hit the ground running, and for Guly, the requirement is clear – he’s got to start scoring goals again.
It’s hard to believe that the man, whose spectacular strikes helped enormously to set up last season’s promotion challenge in the Championship, hasn’t registered a competitive goal since January 2012.
For a player who is often asked to fill in a wide midfield role, goal scoring is not that easy.
Guly has had to do it long enough and is comfortable playing there, but he admits: “I’m happy playing further forward. Going through the middle it is easier to score goals.”
One thing is clear in his own mind: “I need to start hitting the back of the net again. For sure it’s the only way back for me.”
The 31-year-old Brazilian has barely figured in a dozen games for Saints this term, but he says he’s not downhearted. “It’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be playing more, but what has happened this season has made me even more determined to show what I can do next season for the team.”
When he first arrived in Southampton from Italian football for the start of the 2010/11 campaign in League One, Guly didn’t get many starts.
And because of it, he found it hard to settle to a different type of football.
That allied to his struggle to understand what people were telling him and the inclement winter weather made him homesick.
This year, the weather’s not been not too hot, and Guly hasn’t played too many games, but his mindset his totally different.
“I feel a lot more settled now, not just with living in England but with playing for Southampton.
“The new manager has made it so that’s it’s a pleasure to come into work and the way the team have been playing, I don’t expect him to make too many changes.
“It’s just been good to be a part of it,” says Guly who, when he has been fit, has figured mostly as a substitute, although he has made seven starts.
One of those came back on 29th December against final-day opponents Stoke City, where he had perhaps the best chance to end his goal scoring famine.
Saints were leading 3-1 at The Britannia, and when the Stoke ‘keeper Asmir Begovic, parried a shot to Guly’s feet, it looked a simple enough task for the big fella to bury it and to put the game to bed.
He didn’t, and Stoke went straight down the other end to score to set up a nerve-jangling finale that led to Cameron Jerome netting a spectacular last minute equaliser.
“I made a few mistakes through the season and maybe that was one of them,” he says candidly, “but that chance at Stoke wasn’t as easy as people thought. The ball came back to me, but it came back too far for me to get a clear strike on goal with my left foot.”
The luck hasn’t been with Guly do Prado for much of the season though.
In late August, his biggest mistake came away from the pitch, which resulted in a ban from driving. The repercussions were hammered home when he lost his place in the starting line-up.
After a brief return to the side over Christmas, Guly suffered a knee injury shortly after the arrival of Pochettino, which was subsequently followed by one just recently at Tottenham, which have left the Brazilian happy to put the 2012/13 campaign to bed.
The ankle he injured at White Hart Lane keeps him out of the return with Stoke, but from his watching brief on the bench, Guly has been impressed with how Saints have coped with Premier League football.
He says: “The new coach has brought many new ideas. He has changed the way we play and has made everyone in the club feel important and that is important to someone like me.
“Always I want to give my best for Southampton Football Club and I think the manager knows this. I have never been more determined to do well for the club than I am now.”
At 31 he would be expected perhaps to be looking for somewhere he’d have more chance of playing regularly, but Guly insists: “I still believe I can do well for Southampton and my friends in the team.”
Since establishing himself in the side during 2011, do Prado has relished playing at St Mary’s and loves it when the fans chant his name. It’s nectar to a man who hasn’t had the easiest of rides on football’s roller coaster.
He was just a kid of 18 when he left his native Brazil to play at the second level of Italian football. Guly worked his way up to earn a move to Fiorentina but just when his big chance was beckoning he injured a knee and spent two years on the sidelines.
He was farmed out on loan to regain his match fitness and played a major role helping Cesena gain promotion to Serie A.
That effort set up his move to England where it was his ambition to go on and play Premier League football.
And nothing about the top-flight has disappointed him. “It’s every bit as good as I thought it would be,” says Guly. “It has sharpened my appetite to play many more games.
“After I recover from my injury I shall go home to Brazil with my family, and then come back ready to give everything in pre-season.
“It’s then that I have to show the manager what I can really do for Southampton. I know I must do better and I am determined to make next season much better than the last.”
A lack of firepower in Saints’ last run of games might just give the Brazilian the opportunity he craves when next season gets underway.