(Reuters) - Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has spoken of how hard work and determination have given him the self-belief he can succeed at the top level and helped him overcome the doubts that accompany an extended spell out of the team.
Signed from Bayern Munich in July 2016, Hojbjerg has spent most of the current season warming the bench, but handed a first league start against Everton on Sunday, he excelled at the base of midfield as the Saints ran out 4-1 winners.
In an interview with the Southern Daily Echo, the 22-year-old spoke about his confidence that he would thrive irrespective of whether his future lay at Southampton or elsewhere.
“I’ve learned a lot from it,” he said in reference to his lack of game time. “I’ve done my stuff, I’ve been at it every single day. I’ve done my extra work on my days off.
“You need to keep fit, because one day the club will need you... If you’re not ready it’s your own mistake.”
Hojbjerg, who only played six minutes of first-team football this season before the Everton game, was praised by many of Southampton’s fans for his performance, but is taking nothing for granted ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Manchester City.
“I don’t say I’ll play (at Manchester City), I don’t say I’ll play Saturday and in the end, if you’re not playing a lot, you stop expecting to be in it,” he added.
“It’s just step by step and the most important thing right now is to play football and, if it’s not at Southampton, then it’s somewhere else. I know I’m not allowed to say it from a club perspective but this is how it is.”
The Dane became a father for the first time earlier this year, and said the birth of his daughter had changed his perspective on both football and life.
“It’s amazing. It’s the best thing in my life,” he said. “All the questions that suddenly hit you usually when you come home and see the little one there and, if you’ve done badly, she still needs to eat, a change of nappy and sleep.
“That gives you some sort of living in the moment and just enjoying what you have. It’s priceless, it’s difficult to explain.”
Victory over Everton pushed Southampton up to 10th in the table ahead of their midweek trip to league leaders City.
Writing by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge