“He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own, Danny Ings he’s one of our own.”

On a warm summer’s day August 2018, Danny Ings made his debut for the team he had always supported, the team that he had always dreamt of playing for. Just the appearance of the forward warming the touchline was met with a wall of noise from the home supporters.

Born just 13 miles away from Southampton, Ings was back to where he described as “home.” After being released as a schoolboy, the 26-year-old had long harboured an ambition to return; to set foot on St Mary’s with the red and white stripes as his jersey.

A neat few touches and a couple of half chances had brought the Southampton supporters alive, instantly galvanising the 30,000 faithful. The number 9 had the crowd wrapped around his finger with every touch, movement and run he made. In a stalemate draw, Ings had quickly discovered an innate ability to captivate his audience with just him wearing the infamous stripes.

With the blessings of former boss Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool fans, Danny Ings needed a fresh start. Despite not being a prominent figure on Merseyside, only making 14 appearances in three years, the striker had left with the full admiration of the Kop.

In the midst of a footballing world where players are further disconnected from the supporters than ever, there was a man that was shared his pain in the public eye, constantly ploughing through the desperately unlucky injury news that never seemed to stop.

Yet, they saw a man who would do whatever he could on and off the field for their club. There lied a constant burning desire to play football and live out his childhood dream. In search of a fresh start, Danny Ings knew he had to start again. What could be better than going back to where it all started? And for once, possibly for the first time, transfer dealings between Liverpool and Southampton were made relatively polite.

Yet fast forward to present day, the return to Southampton has been bittersweet. For years Danny Ings has been the striker the club have been crying out for. A ruthless edge in front of goal and an infectious appetite to press and hunt the opposition, the Winchester born man has played a part in 23% of the team’s goals. There is no denying his unquestionable talent, however, that talent has been showcased all too sparingly.

Certain sections of supporters have understandable doubts regarding his romantic return down south. With the obligation to buy Ings at the end of the season for a rumoured 20 million pound fee approaching, his torrid injury record is at the forefront of concerns.
Once again, injury issues have reared their ugly head. Playing just 47% of all minutes in the Premier League this campaign, consistent hamstring and ankle niggles continue to arise. Perhaps it’s a product of his personality, a man who rushes himself back to full fitness when he should still be on the treatment table in a search to somehow retrieve the umpteen matches he has been forced to miss over the years.

In a career as short as a footballer’s, every game that goes by is one less time of playing in front of a big crowd, every game that falls by the wayside is one less chance of experiencing that unimaginable adrenaline rush of hitting the back of the net. A rush Danny Ings has had not and could not have experienced all too regularly in the last three years.

But as we approach the business end of the season, Ings has a glorious opportunity of personal redemption. Those hours in the gym during his rehab and the sleepless nights wondering if he will ever play again, the Southampton man finally has a chance to bear the fruits of his mental and physical labour he’s had to undergo in recent times.
Featuring in a behind closed door’s match against QPR last week, Ings is now firmly back in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s plans. With Charlie Austin the only senior striker fit, Ings adds a vital alternative as the Saints look to avoid the drop.

As a certain Southampton great has done in the past, Danny Ings’ goals in the last eight fixtures could define the Saints’ season. Doing it for his club, his city, his home, is surely enough motivation for anyone. A clean bill of health and a golden opportunity to save his boyhood club, who would bet against Danny Ings becoming Southampton’s saviour.

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