It’s safe to say that Nathan Redmond has proven a lot of people wrong this season.
After a testing couple of years at Southampton following his move from Norwich City in 2016, the winger has emerged as a crucial player for the club and is in the form of his life.
Before Ralph Hasenhuttl’s appointment at St Mary’s Stadium, the 24-year-old had netted only nine goals in 104 appearances.
Since then, however, Redmond has been found a new lease of life and is visibly enjoying his football. Playing with greater freedom and incision, he has scored six goals in his last 12 games.
Redmond’s fortunes have changed, and while Hasenhuttl’s undeniable influence appeared to be the catalyst for this shift, he has himself to thank for overcoming his previous hardships.
I don’t feel I’m afraid to mess up or not get past somebody. I feel like I’ve overcome that point that I was in – especially last season where I was almost afraid to take somebody on, in the fear that I might lose the ball.
My confidence was low, on and off the pitch, but I’m at a place now that I’m literally thinking as soon as I get the ball: what are my strengths? And then just doing it.
Redmond told the club’s official website of his psychological change before Hasenhuttl had even been appointed, replacing Mark Hughes at the start of December.
He had not found the net nor contributed with an assist at this stage, but there was an evident sense of improvement, both on the pitch and within himself.
Often inconsistent and as typically frustrating as developing wide players so regularly are, Redmond has been subject to scathing criticism during his time on the south so far.
Under Mauricio Pellegrino, he struggled to convince and scored only one goal last season, which came under Hughes.
Fear appeared to have overcome what was once a promising winger, whose primary trait was the ability to run at defences and cause havoc among the opposition’s backline.
Redmond was mismanaged. Risk-averse football from the likes of Claude Puel towards the end of his reign and Pellegrino stymied the threat that he had previously boasted, leaving a technically-gifted footballer blessed with physical quality with little room to show his true colours.
Few would have imagined that after being dropped by Pellegrino midway through last season that Redmond would emerge as one of, if not the, most important players at Southampton at a similar stage of the following campaign.
The former Birmingham City youngster has silenced his critics, and there indeed were many of them.
Redmond had, admittedly, underperformed for significant periods of his career at Southampton, but the vociferous and often mindless abuse that he was subjected to by sections of the club’s supporters, both online and in the stands, was of no benefit.
He described this period as the lowest point of his footballing career to date:
Certain sections of the fans were booing me when I was coming on and whenever I touched the ball, so a lot of stuff came into it – off the pitch as well.
It just became a point that was the lowest I’ve ever experienced in my career.
The only way for me was being around my friends and my family when I was out of the side. That’s what enabled me to pick myself back up.
Redmond, however, is a strong character and bounced back finely from these spells of adversity. He is now a leader in his own right and has often carried his team in matches this season.
The 24-year-old was playing well under Hughes at the start of the season and appeared to be on the cusp of turning performances into results, as the team often had, but his efforts were to be of no true avail.
Under Hasenhuttl, though, Redmond has exploded into life and is undoubtedly playing the best football of his career. He is tenacious, works across the attacking line and is playing with bravery.
Self-belief appeared to have been a major issue for him under previous managers; Redmond would shoot from distance often, but was he truly convinced that he was going to score?
It seems now that he has put his struggles well behind him, and is relishing whatever game comes next. He is driving at defences, making intelligent decisions and displaying long-awaited cutting edge.
Should he continue to perform with such threat and energy in front of goal, and there is no reason why this will not be the case as Hasenhuttl continues to depend upon him, Redmond will be catching the eyes of prestigious clubs shortly.
Consistency appeared to have been a perennial issue for the attacker, but after standing out for Southampton this season and emerging at the forefront of Hasenhuttl’s plans, he is well on his way to achieving his vast potential.
Redmond can be the future of the football club. He still has age on his side and has experience and skill in abundance despite his tender years. With his contract expiring in the summer of 2021, it seems an improved offer from the Saints should be merely a necessity.
After such a frosty tenure at St Mary’s, Redmond perhaps wouldn’t be out of line to turn around and question why he should show the club loyalty when he has been scapegoated so often during his two-and-a-half years.
However, it is essential that Southampton – those at the club and those in the stands – show Redmond that he is tremendously valued and he is wanted for years and years to come.