Setback as Gunn tries to bounce back from Saints disappointment at Stoke
Prior to an ankle injury ruling him out of Tuesday night’s game, Stoke goalkeeper Angus Gunn had spoken to David Freezer about life since leaving Norwich City and his Southampton loan exit.
The opportunity to face Norwich City for the first time may have been snatched away from Angus Gunn by a frustrating injury but the former Canaries keeper has high hopes that his loan at Stoke will get his career back on track this season.
The 24-year-old’s successful year on loan with his hometown club during 2017-18 earned him a move to Southampton, with the Saints paying Manchester City £10million up front in a deal potentially worth up to £13.5m.
Gunn initially had to be patient with Alex McCarthy as number one but a couple of months after Ralph Hasenhuttl had succeeded Mark Hughes he was playing regularly and helping his new club steer clear of Premier League relegation trouble.
That meant starting last season as number one but after 10 games disaster struck, as Saints were smashed 9-0 at home by Leicester, with the Norwich-born keeper dropped to the bench afterwards.
“I went in there expecting to not go in straight away as number one and to have to work my way into it,” Gunn reflected, speaking before an ankle injury had ruled him out of Tuesday night’s clash with City.
“I felt the build up that I had from the start of the season to Christmas, I was getting better and better.
“Even before Mark Hughes left the club I felt it was only a matter of time before I got an opportunity. So him leaving sort of put me back a little bit but then Christmas and going into the new year I got my opportunity and I felt like I was definitely ready for it at the time.
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“I managed to get a good few games under my belt at the end of that season, but an unbelievable experience playing in those games in the Premier League, especially my debut at Stamford Bridge (a 0-0 draw at Chelsea) was one of those feelings that you can’t really describe.
“It was kind of a blur really and I look back on that as probably one of the best moments of my career so far. It started pretty slowly, trying to get into the team, and I felt like I did really well to get there.
“The team were actually struggling before I came in and I felt like, we obviously stayed in the league so that was the main aim for the club, and feeling like you were a factor in that happening was a good feeling for me. So I just tried to take that into the second season.”
Gunn went away with the England Under-21s during the summer of 2019 but was an unused substitute for all three games as Aidy Boothroyd’s team crashed out of the European Championship without a win, playing second fiddle to Dean Henderson - giving him a shorter and more frustrating break between seasons.
He continued: “I went in as number one that year and felt I started pretty well and was comfortable with where my game was at, then obviously there were two or three bad results leading into the Leicester game and after that the manager decided to change it.
“After that happens, after a game like that, it’s hard to come back from. I feel like if I had gone back out the week after and played the next game and even if a couple of weeks later I came out of the team, I feel like it could have been a different story from my time there.
“But it was what it was and I had to wait until the New Year to play in a cup game and that was pretty much the start of the stop-start playing time there.
“It was pretty clear after that season that I wasn’t going to be involved as I would have liked and I spoke to the manager pretty openly. He spoke to me openly as well and said the best thing for me was to look somewhere else and try to get regular game time, to get my game back up really.”
Stoke boss Michael O’Neill is yet to put a timeline on Gunn’s injury but he is hoping to be part of a positive season, with the Potters seventh and just three points adrift of leaders Norwich.
“When I first came in here, you look around and I didn’t realise the quality that is here,” he added.
“When I was at Southampton in the Premier League, it’s a very similar dressing room quality-wise.
“I look around and I’ve got Jon Obi Mikel, who’s a Champions League winner, Sam Vokes and James Chester have played at European Championships, it’s a squad which came down from the Premier League a couple of years ago but obviously they’ve changed the philosophy when they’ve brought the new manager in.
“He’s helped the club massively and hopefully I can just add to that really, try and get them up the league.”