NAIROBI, June 5 – Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama is hopeful his English Premier League (EPL) side Southampton, will reach the group stages of the UEFA Europa League when the Saints return to European competition for the first time in 12 years next season.
Wanyama, who saw his side handed qualification thanks to Arsenal’s 4-0 FA Cup demolition of Aston Villa, told Capital Sport the team under the tutelage of Dutchman Ronald Koeman has adapted to his philosophy and are aiming at improving their seventh finish in the EPL.
The stocky midfield star, who became the first Kenyan to score in the UEFA Champions League when he netted the first goal in his former Scottish club Celtic’s 2–1 stunning win over this season’s finalists Barcelona in 2012 said he is eying on making an impact in Europe once again.
“It means a lot going back to European football because it’s been two years since I played there. I’m glad to be in it and hopefully we will do well in the qualifying rounds.
“I did it at Celtic and it was great. It feels good to be back again this time with an English Premier League team. I’m looking forward to it,” Wanyama, who rediscovered his scoring touch under Koeman, netting three in the EPL, told.
The Kenya captain will see his team enter the Europa League at the third qualifying round, needing to win two (two-legged) ties to qualify for the group stages.
The midfield enforcer who was awarded by the club for his impressive performance said transition from former manager Mauricio Pochettino to Koeman had been smooth and everyone in the team is showing commitment as the Saints disproved naysayers.
“We have a good relationship with the manager and always work as a team. The spirit in the team is great; everyone works hard to improve in every game so it’s great playing as a family.
“The President’s award means a lot to me, we have been doing very well and everyone did well. I’m grateful to have received the award,” Wanyama who joined Southampton in 2013 on a Scottish transfer record of 12.5 million pounds stated.
The younger brother of 2010 Champions League winner Macdonald Mariga, who was sidelined for two matches in January after limping off with a hamstring injury picked in their third round FA Cup 1-0 win at Ipswich, revealed the knock made him return stronger.
“We play a lot of games and it’s always difficult to be injury free, sometimes you can be lucky but I was unlucky. I’m happy I’m fit again.”