Clyne happy to take one step at a time

Southampton's promising full-back is flattered by United interest but will not rush his progress

Southampton are short of Premier League experience: only the goalkeeper Kelvin Davis and full-back Danny Fox of the team likely to start against Manchester United at St Mary's this afternoon have appeared in the top flight before this season. But among their ranks is a player who has achieved a feat that most never experience in an entire career in the Premier League – beating United at Old Trafford.

The full-back Nathaniel Clyne was one of the stars of Crystal Palace's 2-1 victory over United in last season's Carling Cup quarter-final. Sir Alex Ferguson had intended to use the match to show off some of his young talent, but Palace's academy graduates were the ones who impressed. Ferguson took notice and was said to be among a host of admirers when Clyne's contract at Selhurst Park expired in June.

"I enjoyed stepping out at Old Trafford," Clyne said. "There was no pressure on us, and I wanted more of that experience of playing against big clubs. A lot of people saw I performed well, and obviously there was speculation that United were interested. But I was just happy to continue playing football, and if there were teams out there taking an interest in me, it meant I was doing well. I knew I had to continue and improve as a player, and hopefully make the bigger step up which I have now done."

Palace tried to hold on to Clyne, 21, who had been at Selhurst Park for seven years, but a move looked inevitable for a player selected for the 2011-12 PFA Championship team of the season. Perhaps the only surprise was that he signed for newly-promoted Southampton, but they were able to offer him more than the occasional Capital One Cup run-out he might have been restricted to at a more established club.

"I was delighted when Southampton came in for me, because I knew it would give me the chance of first-team football in the Premier League," he said. "I like the way we play here – good passing football. I had other options but I want to be out there improving as a player, not sitting on the subs bench. I am very ambitious, but you can take steps up the ladder, you don't have to go straight to the top. I am still young and still learning."

Today's fixture has provided memorable moments: Matthew Le Tissier chipping Peter Schmeichel in Saints' 6-3 victory at The Dell in October 1996, and United blaming the wrong colour shirts for a 3-1 defeat the previous season.

But a United win at St Mary's on the final day of the 2004-05 season relegated Harry Redknapp's team, exiling Southampton to seven seasons outside the top flight that included a further relegation and a descent into administration.

The long-awaited return, though, has not gone too well so far. A battling performance away to Manchester City, when Southampton led 2-1 before going down 3-2, was followed by a more sobering 2-0 home reverse at the hands of Wigan eight days ago in a match that Nigel Adkins, the manager, had targeted for three points.

On the face of it, United's visit could not have come at a worse time, but Clyne is looking forward to facing them again. "I relish these types of games," he said. "You need to test yourself against the best of the best, and I think we have already proved we can play against the big boys with our first away game at Manchester City. We gave it a right go and pushed them all the way, and got some positives from it. We knew it was a tough opening, but once we group together and get going, we will be all right, and hopefully that will start on Sunday."

Today's United team will be stronger than the one that Clyne helped to beat last season, and the arrival of Robin van Persie makes them even more of a threat. Is there a plan for RVP? "Keep him on his right foot maybe," Clyne suggests. "They are dangerous all over the park, so we have to mark up well.

"Hopefully we can now start kicking on and give the fans something to cheer about. We want to push up the league, not be fighting relegation. We went to United when I was at Palace and beat them – it was about playing without fear."

Clyne comes from Stockwell in south London, and supports Chelsea. "So that is a special reason to put one over on United," he said. "As a full-back I look up to Ashley Cole, a quality player both defensively and attacking – he is the same height and build as me." Stockwell, he says, "is quite a rough area really. There wasn't much else for me to do, apart from going out with my friends and having a kick-about.

"I signed for Palace at 14. Not many people from Stockwell have gone on to become pro-footballers, so a lot look up to me. I just want to impress everybody and make my friends and family proud as well, because they will be coming to the game."

Shouting him on as loudly as anyone will be his mother, Ann. "She is there every game. Yes, she is a big shouter who gets involved. If I don't perform well she will tell me – definitely. That's a good incentive to do well."

She sounds as formidable as Sir Alex. "Probably both as bad!" he said. "Mum has always been there for me since I was a little boy, always taking me to training. Mum keeps my feet on the ground. She will tell me if I don't stay on track, and that's a good thing – I need that support. Whatever success I get will be repaying her, because she tells me how proud she is of me. She tells me to keep focused and I will reach my goals."

Southampton v Manchester United is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape