Accused of not caring, lazy and unable to capture the form he once had, many Southampton fans would not have been disappointed if Ryan Bertrand was moved on during the summer window.
During a torturous 18 months on the South Coast for the club, captain Bertrand took a fair share of criticism. With Matt Targett, his deputy for so many years, putting in good performances whilst on loan at Fulham, many felt the homegrown player should be the predecessor to Ryan Bertrand. To add insult to injury, the former Chelsea man lost his place in the England squad and the chance of going to the World Cup.
After yet another tough start of the season for the team, Ryan Bertrand picked up a back injury which would result in a lengthy spell on the sidelines in November. The opportunity presented itself to Matt Targett, who was finally given the chance to get a run of games in a Saints shirt.
Yet, fast forward to the present, Matt Targett’s performances has been somewhat unconvincing. With the wing-back position so important under the Hasenhuttl system, it is clear to see that Ryan Bertrand has the potential to thrive under the Austrian.
Perhaps this is a classic case of not realising what you have got until its gone. Although some justified, the amount of scrutiny the 29 year-old came under was unfair. During his time at the club, he has observed a huge turnover of players, with each summer seemingly having a revolving door fitted at Staplewood.
In his best seasons at the club, the quality of player around him was a lot higher than it is currently. This was perfectly epitomised last season, where Bertrand went from playing alongside Virgil Van Dijk to Wesley Hoedt in a short space of time.
The football that had been ingrained into the players and was deep rooted in the Southampton philosophy had been ripped up and thrown out. Under the three previous managers prior to Hasenhuttl, the Saints were on the back foot more often than not, with some supporters labelling the style as “defensive” and “negative.”
Ryan Bertrand did not have the license to get forward and was restricted to what he could do to impact the game. Frustration was evident. He was able to witness first hand the direction the Saints were heading, a far cry from the team that reached Europe in two successive seasons.
Yet to feature under new boss, Ralph Hasenhuttl, supporters are now excited upon his expected return. An intense, highly structured style of play could breathe a new lease of life into Ryan Bertrand’s career and help lead the club to restore it’s former glory…