Jason is Puncheon his weight at last after scoring Saints' winner against Reading
22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012
The remarkable turnaround at Southampton is matched by the remarkable turnaround in the career of their match-winner against Reading.
In January Jason Puncheon looked like he had committed career suicide when he used Twitter to slam Southampton executive chairman Nicola Cortese – his boss.
Puncheon didn’t pull any punches. He accused the Swiss-Italian of forcing him to train with the youngsters, called him ‘Nicolina’ and threatened to spend the rest of his contract, that runs until 2013, training with the reserves and youth team.
Main man: Jason Puncheon (second right) celebrates scoring against Reading
What he said Saturday, January 21:
‘I’m not going no where gonna sit an train with the reserves/kids for 18months see how cortese likes that then go on free.
‘Most of u fail to understand that only reason I train with the kids is cos of nicolina not the manager.
‘He won’t speak to face to face that’s how much a man he is.’
What he said Saturday, December 8:
‘People make out Nicola to be a
stern, stubborn character but what he is, is a man of his word. You have
to always give credit to that. He has a good driving force behind
'When I joined I remember the day I
signed he said this football club will be in the Premier League in five
years time – it happened in three years.’
But then Cortese called him in for clear-the-air talks and the winger apologised to him. The next day he was back in training.
Fast-forward 10 months and he found the bottom left corner with a shot across goal in the 61st minute against Reading to lift Saints out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
It was his fourth goal in all competitions this season and third in the league and he has established himself as one of Southampton’s most dangerous attacking threats.
‘It’s all about growing and maturing as an adult and a player and I’m doing that now,’ Puncheon said after scoring that goal. ‘The gaffer has given me a platform and given me a chance and I’ve grasped it with two hands. That’s what’s happened and that’s why we are where we are.
‘I wasn’t nervous about [meeting Nicola] because he is a man of his word. We had a meeting, we spoke. The next day I was at training. That was the most important thing for me to be settled and start playing again. We had clear-the-air talks and as far as I’m concerned that’s all history. I’m just pleased to get the chance and keep producing.’
Rescued: Puncheon (left) had looked to be heading out of Southampton
His outburst in January followed three loan spells to Millwall, Blackpool and QPR in just less than two years, the first of which came 10 months after his arrival at the club in February 2010. It was during two seasons when Saints were flying and won back-to-back promotions that has landed them back in the Premier League.
They did not drop below fifth in League One in the entire second half of the 2010/11 season. The next campaign in the Championship they did not drop out of the top two at all.
‘It was difficult for me to come back as much as I was loaned out I was coming back to a team that was winning week-in-week-out,’ the 26-year-old added.
‘The club were second in the Championship when I came back and were in the top two all season it’s hard to come back in and hit the ground running the way the boys were playing. I knew coming back having a good preseason would be the start for me and that’s what I needed.
Turnaround: Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has worked wonders
‘I learned a lot from all different types of experiences. That’s what’s helped me now to be settled and to mature as an adult and a player. I wouldn’t change anything the way I went about my career so far, I wouldn’t change any of it. That’s helped me grow as a player and as a human being.’
His manager Nigel Adkins believes Puncheon deserves all the credit he gets. The 56-year-old said: ‘We treat people as human beings and they have all got to be allowed to make mistakes and grow. All the credit that Jason will get now is down to him because he is the one who has got to do it. He’s a great story. It shows how well people can do when you give them an opportunity.’
Following back-to-back promotions Southampton appeared to be punching above their weight in the Premier League at the start of the season. But Puncheon’s goal on Saturday moved them to 15th and they are starting to look like they fit in as well as the midfielder does in their team.