Why James Ward Prowse Is No More Mr Nice Guy
Thursday, 7th Feb 2019 12:53
After nearly 7 seasons as a first team regular suddenly James Ward Prowse is starting to look like the player he has the potential to be, here we look at why that is the case.
Older fans will remember Steve Williams, the then teenage midfielder made his League debut at roughly the same age as James Ward Prowse, both a month or two shy of their 18th birthdays.
Ward Prowse made his League debut at then Premier League Champions Manchester City whereas Williams made his at Fratton Park a few days after Saints had won the FA Cup semi Final and the 1-0 win that evening saw Pompey relegated to the old division 3..
Both players had the ability to read a game and the ability to pick a pass and hit a shot, but up until now the similarity ended a little.
Williams had a nasty streak in him even at 17, he had an arrogance, he believed that he was as good as anyone else on that pitch and that he was in awe of no one.
In the coming years he was to be indispensable to the team, one of the first names on the team sheet, if he was fit he played and even when he was not fit he was sometimes risked as was the gamble that ultimately failed in the 1984 FA Cup semi at Highbury against Everton.
In contrast Ward Prowse looked like he would not say boo to a goose, he had the talent, but he did not have the nasty streak, he looked like he would apologise to opponents , he did not look like he actually believed himself that he should be on the same pitch as most of his peers in not only the Saints squad but other clubs as well.
But something changed when Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived and the Austrain has now spoken of how from the start he could see that JWP had what it takes, but he did not have that aggression and arrogance needed and something that the likes of Steve Williams had in abundance.
Hasenhuttl has famously sat down with all his players and given his honest opinion of what they need to prosper, his managerial style is all about boosting confidence and that seems to be working especially with James Ward Prowse.
“I think I was very clear and very honest to him, which I think helps him a lot.
“I think Prowsey has made a good development with his aggression because that’s what I missed from him the most when I came here."
“He is a good footballing player and a nice guy, but now he showed that he can also be aggressive, win duels, win balls back and with his physical quality he can nearly play in every position.”
As well as cementing his spot in the heart Saints’ midfield, Ward-Prowse has also shown he’s capable to play as a full back. "
And Hasenhuttl revealed his ability to get in scoring positions is a mark of Ward-Prowse’s confidence.
“He showed us against Crystal Palace that he can score as a full back, as in the moment he scored, he was playing as a full back.
“I think this goal in this position you only score if you really wanted to – if you really go for it."
“As a full back to be in this position was perfect play from us, good deep runs which is what we are always demanding, and then they are shifting, shifting and shifting until it comes to the moment where they are one man less to defend this space and that’s exactly what we tried to do always."
“It was really calm finishing, not without thinking, but with the inside of the foot into the far side."
“It was perfect and shows how comfortable he feels right now in front of goal and how much self-confidence he has at the moment.”
Hasenhuttl is spot on and Ward Prowse's new found confidence and form is down to the Austrian taking time to look at his players and help them understand where they need to improve.
With JWP it is about belief and aggression, the belief he belongs in the Premier League and that comes with believing you are better than your opponent and wanting to outplay him not quite at any cost but not far off.
Look at the difference in his facial expression between the picture at the top of this page and the one below, his mindset has changed the determination can be read in his face..
Ward Prowse showed that determination against Crystal Palace when he refused to be bullied by Wilfrid Zaha, when the Palace man tried to psyche him, he stood firm and even made Zaha jump by pretending to throw the ball at him.
Some would say that this was a deliberate act to get the player sent off, but I would disagree, Zaha was the aggressor, JWP merely stood his ground and showed that he wasn't afraid to get close.
This is reaping the rewards for James who now seems to be an essential part of the team, when under Mark Hughes he was a bit part player.
Now he can perhaps go on and become the Saints legend that Steve Williams became, but perhaps before he gets to that level he has one more hill to climb, as Ralph said he can play in several positions including full back, Williams only had one position and that was in the heart of the midfield, you would not consider playing him elsewhere, he was too valuable in that position to do that.
Now James Ward Prowse has to keep his current form going and then he has to show that like Williams there is only one place to play him and that is directing operations in the centre of the park.
Some Saints fans moan about the lack of signings in January, but the truth is we have several players who could be likened to such, JWP is a new player, he played little part in the 9 months before Hasenhuttl arrived and he like Jan Bednarek, Matt Targett and several others are adding a new dimension to the squad that wasn't there under Mark Hughes or Manuel Pellegrino.
There could be a few more yet who follow his example, Callum Slattery looked the part and Josh Sims might just regain that promise he showed a couple of years ago add Michael Obafemi and we have a squad that can pull us clear.
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Photo: Action Images
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