Ward-Prowse happy to step up

By SFC Media time Fri 30 Aug Men's First team

James Ward-Prowse says he's enjoying the added responsibility of being designated as Saints' preferred set-piece taker.

The 18-year-old has started the first two games of the new Barclays Premier League season, with his free-kick setting up José Fonte's equalising header against Sunderland last weekend.

Ward-Prowse's performances have been an undoubted highlight of what has been a promising start to the new campaign, with the midfielder hoping to continue his contribution at Norwich tomorrow.

"The manager put me on set-pieces during pre-season, so I knew I had to constantly work on them," he told Saints Player ahead of the trip to East Anglia. 

"Nowadays set-pieces make a big difference in matches – they can decide whether you win or lose a game, as it proved last weekend when Sunderland scored from a corner and we scored from a free-kick. 

"If you can put the ball in the right area when you've got people like [Rickie] Lambert and José in the box, you know they'll put it in the back of the net.

"It's nice to have that responsibility, and I am embracing that and the pressure of it," he continued. "I model myself on the likes of Steven Gerrard and David Beckham, who are set-piece experts.

"I stay out for an extra half-hour or so after training to take a few corners, free-kicks and shots so that I'm in the mindset for the weekend."

Ward-Prowse was rested in midweek, spending the evening as an unused substitute as Southampton won 5-1 at Barnsley to progress to round three of the Capital One Cup.

The youngster now feels he's in peak condition for the trip to Carrow Road, where Saints will hope to encounter better conditions than the blizzard they played in there back in March.

"We're looking forward to going there," he said. "Last year it was a real tough challenge for us with the weather conditions but hopefully at this time of year they won't be so bad and they will be more conducive to our style of play.

"[That game] was a good awakening for all of us. It was the first time we suffered really bad weather, so hopefully the sun will be shining this time at Carrow Road.

"I was happy to be in and around the squad on Tuesday and to see some of the young lads come onto the pitch," he added, having seen fellow youngsters Harrison Reed, Omar Rowe and Jake Sinclair make their debuts at Oakwell. 

"I was there to support them because that was me a couple of years ago, so it was good for me just to be there to help them through. Hopefully I'm all rested up now and ready to go tomorrow."

There was good news for Ward-Prowse earlier this week, when he was called up to the England Under-21 squad for the first time along with Saints teammate Luke Shaw.

And James says he's already setting his sights on playing for the Three Lions' senior side sooner rather than later: "It's the next step on the international ladder, and it's one away from the first team. 

"You've seen the likes of Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend do it, so it's in the back of my mind that – if I can carry on my good form – hopefully I can push my way in there.

"To be called up for the Under-21s at my age is a real achievement for me, so I'm happy with that.

"I'll just concentrate on myself and the Club, and I will be recognised if I'm doing well. I'll meet up with the team, try to impress the manager and take it from there."

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