Yoshida reflects on a special five years

By SFC Media Wed 30 Aug Maya Yoshida
Photo by Matt Watson

For Maya Yoshida, his five years in Southampton have not just taught him to be a better footballer – he believes they have also helped him to become a better person.

It was 30th August 2012 when the Japan international completed a move to St Mary's from Dutch side VVV-Venlo, shortly after Saints had returned to the Premier League.

Yoshida's debut was a chastening 6-1 defeat at Arsenal, but, if it was a difficult start to life in the club, there were far better moments to come for the centre-back.

Yoshida, now 29, has been a mainstay of a squad that has achieved four successive finishes in the top half of the Premier League, while also reaching a League Cup final and experiencing two European campaigns.

He has gone on to become one of the most senior, respected members of the group, wearing the captain's armband on occasions, and signing a new three-year deal only last week.

Reflecting on the five-year anniversary of his arrival, Yoshida said: "Five years is a long time. I think I have become much better as a player, as a man, as a husband, as a dad.

"That five years has made me really stronger as a person, not only as a footballer. I think these five years have been the biggest time of my career, but still I want to progress more and more with Southampton."

Adapting to England and the Premier League wasn't simple for Yoshida, who admits he went through some tough times as he established himself, but he feels very much at home now.

"It wasn't easy," he explained. "We struggled in the first season – we were just promoted from the second division.

"I had everything through those five years, for better and for worse. Sometimes I played a lot, some seasons I didn't, but everything makes me stronger.

"It's not easy first time of course to adjust to English football and the English culture, but now I understand and my wife is really happy as well."

Yoshida last season became the first Japanese player to reach 100 Premier League appearances, and it is a source of great pride for him – although it is difficult to select just one highlight from his time with Southampton so far.

"It's hard to pick one, because every day is a special moment for me in Southampton, in England, in the Premier League," he said.

"I fight for it every day, because if I lose my focus just one day it's going to be trouble for me, because there is most tough competition here, and I have to fight for that every day.

"Last season, I achieved 100 Premier League appearances, we went to a Wembley cup final, I became a dad, so last season I had many things and I think those are my best moments in Southampton."

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