‘I never doubted I would be back,’ says pro­lific Ings af­ter five-year wait for re­turn

➤ Southamp­ton’s ev­er­green striker says long-awaited call into the Eng­land fold has been ‘like the first day at school’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Football - By Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER

Danny Ings has long said that his best is yet to come and while it has taken him five years to get back into the Eng­land squad since win­ning his only cap in Oc­to­ber 2015, it is a mantra that he holds on to more strongly than ever as one of the Premier League’s top strik­ers.

The Southamp­ton for­ward, who struck 22 league goals in the 20192020 sea­son in a team who fin­ished 11th, and with only one penalty – which he missed – has had an ex­tra­or­di­nary come­back with Eng­land. There are foot­ballers who be­come syn­ony­mous with their in­juries, but Ings is de­ter­mined not to be one of them and, speak­ing in a Zoom call from St Ge­orge’s Park yes­ter­day, said he had never doubted that one day he would be back.

The in­juries he no longer wants to dis­cuss, and when it comes to his fu­ture he is adamant that there is much more to come. “I think the best part of my foot­ball is go­ing to be the sec­ond part of my ca­reer be­cause I did miss quite a lot of foot­ball,” he says.

“To have the sea­son I have just had and give my­self some­thing to build on. I do feel the best foot­ball for me is go­ing to be in the years to come. I still feel ex­tremely fit and hun­gry and I don’t think you stop learn­ing as a player when you even­tu­ally get to your thir­ties.”

His con­tract with Southamp­ton is down to less than two years and while there have been sug­ges­tions that he will be next for an ex­ten­sion, there is no ques­tion that Ings’s per­for­mances will give some wealth­ier clubs a de­ci­sion to make this win­dow. He was the sub­ject of an inquiry from Manch­ester United in Jan­uary be­fore they signed Odion Ighalo, and strong per­for­mances against Ice­land on Satur­day and Den­mark three days later in the Na­tions League will pro­pel him back into view.

As one who did not play for a club chal­leng­ing the top six, Ings, 28, was a stand­out in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot. In­deed, Southamp­ton were in the rel­e­ga­tion zone for nine of the first 17 match-days and yet only Jamie Vardy outscored Ings.

His min­utes-per-goal ra­tio of 128 was the best among the top 10 goalscor­ers. A goal con­ver­sion rate of 33 per cent was bet­ter than any other goalscorer in the top 25. In short, Ings did more with less. If there was any doubt about his fit­ness, he played in all 38 league games.

“Of­ten it’s a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge to keep up with th­ese guys who con­sis­tently score a lot of goals ev­ery sea­son,” Ings says. “But to see my name within that list gave me great con­fi­dence. It made me just want to keep scor­ing and scor­ing. Credit to our lads at Southamp­ton for the way we turned the sea­son around and the amount of chances that we cre­ated from mis­takes and our press­ing. Some­times, my goals were not glam­orous, but any striker will tell you a goal is a goal.”

He po­litely de­scribed a re­turn to St Ge­orge’s Park for the first time in five years like a “first day at school”, but he has been through much big­ger chal­lenges. He was a cer­tainty for Eng­land’s March friendlies, can­celled as the game went into lock­down, and then had to show that he could come out of that hia­tus as sharp as he had gone in. He fin­ished Project Restart with seven goals in nine games.

“For me, it was very sim­ple: I had to stay fit and come back af­ter lock­down in the best shape I could,” he says. “I man­aged to do that and fin­ish the sea­son strong.”

With that in mind, will he be sign­ing a new con­tract if Southamp­ton of­fer him one? Hav­ing al­ready played for one of the Premier League’s top clubs in Liver­pool, there is un­fin­ished busi­ness for Ings, who be­gan only a three-year deal at Southamp­ton last sum­mer. “I have just read the same as what you prob­a­bly have,” Ings says. “I don’t know what the club’s in­ten­tions are. But the fact they value me makes me feel good.”

No other cur­rent Eng­land in­ter­na­tional scored more than Ings in the Premier League last sea­son. Gareth South­gate, who knows Ings well from the Un­der-21s, will be tempted to start with a striker in form – and who knows where that might take him be­fore dead­line day on Oct 5.

Lead­ing from the front: Danny Ings cel­e­brates one of the 22 league goals that pro­pelled him to the verge of be­ing last sea­son’s Golden Boot win­ner

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.