"I knew when I got the opportunity to play that I needed to be ready."
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg might have had to wait almost three months in between Premier League starts, but the midfielder refused to let his absence from the team affect his commitment during that time.
Højbjerg has started Saints' past two matches – the 1-0 win at West Brom and the 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City – after not being named in the XI for a league match since mid-January.
"Of course, it's always nice to get the possibility to take part and to be doing what you love to do, which is playing and showing what you can, so of course I appreciate it," he said, reflecting on his return, ahead of Tuesday night's visit to leaders Chelsea.
During his time out of the starting line-up, Højbjerg was praised by manager Claude Puel for the attitude he continued to show in training, and the 21-year-old explained how important it was to him to maintain his standards.
you need to take your opportunities, otherwise another person will.pierre-emile højbjerg
"When you are a professional football player in a Premier League club like Southampton, you have a responsibility that requires that you have to give 100 per cent," he said.
"You have to try to do your best and this is what I did. I did my job, I did what I had to do and what I wanted to do, and that was to show the coach that he could count on me, that I was ready.
"Of course, it was a long time without playing, I have to admit that, but still I would do it all again – I think as a player you have to be willing to go through it and keep on pushing, because times like this will come.
"Nobody likes it, but if you don't show yourself and get the maximum out of a situation it can be an even tougher time.
"I just wanted when I got home and the day was done to know that I had given my all and, in the end, if the coach puts me in or not, of course it's my problem, but it's not my decision.
"I just try to do my best and keep fit and sharp, because I knew when I got the opportunity to play I needed to be ready. Football is like that – you need to take your opportunities, otherwise another person will take it."