Sam looks back on a breakthrough week in Southampton's first-team
"I can't put it into words," says Sam McQueen, as he attempts to reflect on the events of the past week or so.
Even as an incredibly well-spoken young man, it is perhaps no surprise McQueen is struggling to articulate just exactly what this period has meant to him.
The 21-year-old made his Premier League debut in the 3-1 win over Burnley just over a week ago, before starting in the San Siro away to Internazionale and then helping Saints earn a point at Manchester City yesterday.
I just want to take every opportunity that i'm going to be givensam mcqueen
Such is the enormity of it all that McQueen, who was only converted to a left-back by Claude Puel in the summer, is wary of thinking too much about it.
“I haven't thought about it myself,” he says. “I think if I did, and actually pinched myself and thought about it, then I'd probably come crashing down to earth, so I don't want to. I just want to keep enjoying it and just let it roll on.”
While he was undoubtedly thrown in at the deep end, McQueen has emerged from the experience impressively, and believes it has represented a significant few days in his development.
"I've learned a lot,” says Southampton-born McQueen, who has been with Saints since the age of eight. “You have to learn fast in these conditions, against such good players out there – they're world-class players, and you notice it in the game, how quick they think, and the way that they move and play football is quite amazing.
“But you learn quickly, and Southampton has been amazing with coaching me and teaching me through the years, and recently becoming a left-back, with the manager giving me little coaching points here and there, which have been fantastic.
“So I've been learning a lot and enjoying it a lot, but there's plenty, plenty more to learn – I know that.”
As McQueen admits, following the 1-1 draw at Etihad Stadium, he is “a bit tired”. But it’s a mark of how desperate he is to make the most of this opportunity, following injuries to Ryan Bertrand and Matt Targett, that he has no desire to take any rest.
It is also testament to him that, for all the plaudits that have come his way over the last eight or nine days, one of his first instincts is to focus on the moments he was not so pleased with.
“We're always happy with getting a point here [at Manchester City], but we could have got three, and I'm a little bit frustrated with a few of my decisions and mistakes in the game," he explains. "Overall, not too disappointed, but just getting ready for the next opportunity.”
And McQueen is desperate for that next chance to come on Wednesday, when Saints host Sunderland in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
“I just want to play more and more,” he says, before adding determinedly: “As tired as I am, I'm already desperate to get myself recovered to make sure that I'm ready for Wednesday. I think I will be, and hopefully I can get myself another opportunity, if the manager wants, needs me, or thinks I'm ready.
“So I just want to take every opportunity that I'm going to be given and be ready for whenever I get the next chance again.”
McQueen also had words of thanks for his teammates, who have helped guide him through his first senior appearances.
"They've been good, both on the pitch and off the pitch,” he explains. “Encouraging on the pitch, and they give you that bit of a dig when they need to as well – it's not just sugar-coating everything.
“So it's been amazing, and they've been good off the pitch after games, congratulating me and giving me that little bit of advice and getting me going before a game and making sure I'm on it as well, which has been fantastic.”