By Claire Bloomfield
REUTERS - Southampton forward Jay Rodriguez says playing regular football again is the best feeling ever after suffering a two-year injury nightmare.
The 27-year-old believes he is in great physical shape ahead of Everton’s visit in the Premier League on Sunday.
“I just want to play football. Everyone will say that to play regularly for your team is the best thing a player can ask for and it’s the reason why we work so hard during the week,” Rodriguez told Reuters.
“If I am playing regularly than I am happy. I want to keep improving every time I step on the pitch. Being on the pitch is the best feeling ever because I'm doing what I love.
“At the moment it’s a case of me keeping my head down and continuing the additional work with our physios and sport science team to keep that extra edge. I feel great and the more matches that I play the more match sharpness I get, too.”
Southampton failed to register a single shot on target in last weekend's 0-0 draw with Liverpool.
Rodriguez, who has scored 22 goals for Southampton since joining the club in 2012, is eager to rediscover the prolific form he enjoyed prior to being sidelined with serious knee injuries.
“When I come off the field and I haven’t scored I am always disappointed, I feel gutted. I want to score in every game that I play," he said. “My main aim for the season is to stay fit and play as many games as I can. Goal-wise, I always have a tally in my head that I keep to myself,” said the England international.
“When you’re out injured you spend so many days in the gym, being around the lads and watching a lot of football, and not being able to play is frustrating. You appreciate it even more when you come back.
“Your normal football frustrations kick in once you’re playing again which is nice because it shows you you’re on the right path again.”
Southampton have won only one of their last six league games and their former manager Ronald Koeman returns to the south coast for the first time as Everton look to turn around a recent dip in form.
“As players, of course it will be nice to see him because we had two great years together and we did really well. He’ll get a good reception from the lads but I’m not sure what the fan’s reception will be like,” Rodriguez said.
“I think it’ll be a good game. Everton are a great side and I know that everyone is looking forward to it. We’ve got to concentrate on ourselves and focus on what we can do to get a win,” he added.
The Burnley academy graduate is relishing the hectic run of games coming up over festive period.
“As a player you just want to play games, so I can’t wait,” he said. “If you have a bad game during that period then you know there’s another game just around the corner to put it right."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)