Japan veteran Maya Yoshida desperate to move on from Southampton's capitulation against Leicester

Alam Khan - Reporter 01:00 02/11/2019
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Japan international Maya Yoshida

Six seconds elapse as Maya Yoshida pauses for thought, cautious and careful to utter the right words to the question.

It relates to his last game, Southampton’s 9-0 humbling at home to Leicester City a week ago.

It was a joint-record victory in the Premier League – matching Manchester United’s win over Ipswich in 1995 by the same scoreline – and the biggest ever by an away side in a top-flight match.

For Yoshida, his Saints team-mates and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, the humiliation hurt badly. It was painful beyond words.

As they now face a daunting visit to champions Manchester City – four days after their 3-1 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side in the League Cup – it is a chance to regroup and try to restore pride as they look forward.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said centre-back Yoshida, who was part of the defence that was ridiculed after the devastating loss.

“Even when I was in a small club starting out we conceded many goals, but not like this. It was shame, we really embarrassed ourselves.

“It was a disaster, it shouldn’t happen of course, but it’s done, it’s gone and we have to go forward. We can’t change the past so we have to focus on the future.

“From the next day after the Leicester game we tried to prepare well for the games with Manchester City, one of the best clubs in the world. We knew we had two games in front of us against them so we had to show good character.

“I thought we did well in the cup game, but we have to keep showing our character now, to fight and play for our pride and the supporters. We are trying to be as a team. We know and understand how important it is to be as one.

“The manager has tried to handle it well and we just believe our way, which will be the right way. The trust is easy to destroy, difficult to build up, so we need time to get it back.

“City are tough opponents, we know how hard this will be, but still we will fight as one together and die together. Not one guy goes this way or the other, we are together.

“We have had a lot of team meetings and discussed how we wanted to move in the right way. We are still a team.”

Just as City need victory to keep the pressure on leaders Liverpool, Southampton need points to get out of the bottom three.

Yoshida was part of the defence to concede nine goals.

Yoshida was part of the defence to concede nine goals.

Yoshida knows they are fighting for survival and the Japan captain told Sport360 exclusively: “The last three seasons has been tough for us, for me as well.

“We are used to finishing in the top half of the table and now it’s a relegation fight. But we are ready for this fight.

“We still have confidence and we need to get back on the right track as quickly as possible.”

For Yoshida, hope remains and he will believe just as he did about his football dreams when he first started playing as a youngster in Nagasaki and then went on to star for Grampus, Dutch side VVV Venlo and then Southampton seven years ago.

He is set to win his 100th cap for his country in the World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan on November 14 and the 31-year-old said: “The next game will be a special moment for me and I hope to celebrate.

“It’s always a pleasure to be part of the national team, appreciate my family and team-mates, the medical staff, everyone.

“I couldn’t imagine anything like this when I was young, never. I started from a small city, was struggling to get 11 kids to play.

“Then I went to Nagoya with Grampus and everyone said it’s difficult, then I went to Holland and people said it’s too early, you’re too young to go there, and then they said an Asian player can never be a success in the Premier League.

“Now I am here all these years and how many caps? It’s all good.”

So good that Yoshida is also eyeing a third appearance in the World Cup finals when it is hosted by Qatar in 2022 – having considered quitting after the previous showpiece in Russia.

“I hope to play in Qatar, otherwise I would have already retired,” he added.

“Personally, in terms of my physical condition it’s really good so I had no doubt I could go on and play in the next World Cup.

“Before the last one I decided to look at my future to see if I should continue, but in this moment I have decided to keep going and we are doing well so far in the qualifiers.

“I have good memories of Qatar, we won the Asian Cup there in 2011, and the hospitality was very good. I have no doubt the World Cup will be a success there.”

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