Almost 15 years since leaving Southampton having announced himself to the footballing world, Theo Walcott is determined that the romance of his homecoming won’t overshadow his on-field ambitions.
Having signed on a season-long loan from Everton, the former Academy graduate – who is still the youngest-ever player to score for Southampton – becomes Ralph Hasenhüttl’s fourth summer signing.
Reunited with the number 32 jersey from his first spell with the club, Walcott is looking to use his Premier League experience to help continue the club’s development.
“I always felt like Southampton has been with me,” he said. “Even when I went to Arsenal and Everton, I always felt like I always wanted Southampton to do well.
theo walcottevery time i look down and see the badge, it feels right.
southampton's new signing
“So much happened in such a short time and I just felt like ‘I want to come back one day’, and now it’s a dream come true.
“Something feels right about it. Every time I look down and see the badge it just feels right. It does feel like home, but I want to make sure I really push on and help this team.
“I’m not here to make up the numbers at all. I’m here to play and perform and work hard.
“I feel like if you’re working as hard as you can on the training field and people see me working hard, then you can inspire them [the younger players] to compete as well – competition is very important in a team.
“I always competed when I moved to Arsenal and then to Everton as well, it’s just the way it is in football and that side of me is going to be very important to the squad, to hopefully push people on to get them to the next level as well."
The 31-year-old has had the opportunity to speak to his new boss, and is looking forward to fitting into Saints’ system.
“I managed to speak to the manager and the way that they press and do a lot of things off the ball, I feel like that’s going to fit into my style pretty well.
“It will take time to get into it for the first few training sessions, but I’m a willing learner and I learn quite quickly, so that will help the manager I’m sure.
“I’ve been in the game a long time so know how to adapt pretty quickly. I feel like I want do as best as I can for this football club and we’ll see where that takes us.”