NAIROBI, March 30 – Harambee Stars and Southampton FC midfielder Victor Wanyama says he has learnt his lessons from the five-match ban slapped on him after picking up his third red card of the season early February.
The burly defensive midfielder was sent off in Saints’ 1-0 win over West Ham on February 6 after receiving a second yellow card from a rush challenge on French international Dimitry Payet.
Wanyama went on to miss matches against Swansea, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Sunderland and Stoke City.
Of the five he was out, Southampton only won twice, against Swansea and Stoke. He returned to action against Liverpool on March 20 and was introduced at the start of the second half alongside Senegalese Sadio Mane with his side trailing 2-0.
The two went on to change the face of the game with Southampton recovering to win 3-2 with a brace from Mane.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Wanyama said he was disappointed having missed a huge chunk of the games, but was quick to note it is not something that will occur again.
“It was the worst experience I’ve ever had but I’ve learnt from it and now I know what it takes to miss five games and I would never want to get to that position again. I will have to learn when to tackle and when not to and I think it is an important lesson for me. It is not every ball that is worth going for a challenge for,” Wanyama said.
His club is placed seventh on 47 points, three ahead of Liverpool and the midfielder believes they can push for a Europa League slot in the remaining seven games of the season.
Teams that finish fifth and sixth automatically qualify for the Europa group stages while the seventh finisher goes into the play-offs.
Last season, Southampton finished seventh and went into the qualifying rounds but failed to make it to the group stages after losing to Danish side FC Midtjylland in the last round of qualification.
“We still believe and hopefully we will keep on winning and at the end of the season we will get the slot. It has not been an easy season for us after most of our players left, but we have done well and we have room for improvement,” Wanyama outlined.
The Harambee Stars skipper has been linked with a move to North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur this season but his Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said he was not for sale.
His former coach Mauricio Pochettino, now with Spurs has been on Wanyama’s toes since he arrived at White Hart Lane but the midfielder said he is committed at the Saints.
“My future is in Southampton because I still have a contract with them and I am a Southampton FC player.”
Wanyama was in the country for Kenya’s failed 2017 African Cup of Nations campaign and now returns to England to focus on pushing his club to a European spot with their next opponents being title hopefuls Leicester City away on Sunday.