James Ward-Prowse: The Southampton midfielder reveals he is keeping his focus amid the Premier League run-in

INTERVIEW: The England Under-21 captain spoke to the Independent about his involvement in a charitable initiative and Southampton's hopes of qualifying for Europe 

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For James Ward-Prowse it's about focus - whether a child from a disadvantaged background or a Premier League star.

The Southampton midfielder told the Independent that being mindful of where you want to be is the advice he imparted to a group of youngsters who are seeking to get back on track, and it's also what's helping his career to flourish on the South Coast. 

21-year-old Ward-Prowse is involved in BT Sport's charitable initiative The Supporters Club, which has teamed up with Saints Foundation, the official charity of Southampton FC, to support ‘Saints Connect’, a project targeting young people across Southampton’s most disadvantaged communities. Engaging with the 11-16-year-olds who have been identified as being in need of additional educational support, the project aims to provide opportunities for them in sport, as well as music and art, to put them back on course.

After taking a training session with the youngsters, the England Under-21 captain revealed some of the advice he imparted: "One of the things I got asked is how I deal with the frustration and the bad times and I said it's about having a vision and a goal of where you want to be in life."

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James Ward-Prowse with some of the kids from the Saints Connect initiative

That focus has seen Ward-Prowse become a regular in the Southampton side since breaking through at St Mary's as a youngster himself. At just 17, he found himself regularly featuring in a freshly-promoted Southampton side that most predicted would make a quick return to the Championship after successive promotions. That didn't happen, in fact Southampton have only grown in strength and Ward-Prowse has been a central figure in the club cementing their place in the top-flight - both figuratively and literally in midfield.

The club currently sit just a point behind Manchester United in the Premier League table and seven from a Champions League place. Ward-Prowse is hopeful Southampton can maintain that momentum until the end of the season. 

"We want to be on the European stage having missed out on that earlier in the season," he said, referring to Southampton's rapid exit from the Europa League at the qualifying stage. "The whole infrastructure, the players, the fans and staff, it's all built around European football. We want to make sure we get to that higher level."

Can Saints reach the Champions League this season? It was back to that 'focus' that has served Ward-Prowse so well. "We have to take it game by game. Obviously we want to be at the top level but we're just focusing and making sure our game plan is right and obviously beat (next opponents) Chelsea."

Unsurprisingly, Ward-Prowse's impressive performances, his age and Southampton's history of producing players that went on to 'bigger' clubs (Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale etc) it's unsurprising that he's been linked with moves elsewhere. For many young players that would prove a distraction, but not for the 17-time capped England Under-21 international.

"It's a case of remaining focused. I'm enjoying my football at Southampton and it's a great place to be and I enjoy playing at Southampton," he said. "You remain focused on your goal which is playing in the Premier League and enjoying your football and I'm doing that every day and I'm happy. 

Ward-Prowse will be hoping the advice he imparted to those youngsters works as well for them as it has for him.

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James Ward-Prowse with some of the kids from the Saints Connect initiative

BT Sport’s charitable initiative The Supporters Club, alongside the Premier League, are teaming up with the Saints Foundation, the official charity of Southampton FC, to support ‘Saints Connect’, a project targeting young people across Southampton’s most disadvantaged communities. James Ward-Prowse features in a BT Sport film about the project, which airs on BT Sport 1 before Saints’ clash with AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League on Tuesday 1 March.

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