Playing with gumption

Southampton's Jason Puncheon(left) has excelled this season.-AP Southampton's Jason Puncheon(left) has excelled this season.

Jason Puncheon’s performances and goals have helped to lift Saints out of the bottom three and boss Nigel Adkins is delighted to see the flying winger flourishing. By Pete Thompson.

Jason Puncheon looked certain to leave Southampton in January after a public fall-out with Saints executive chairman Nicola Cortese — what a difference a year makes.

The 26-year-old winger accused Saints supremo Cortese of making him train with the youngsters and made his displeasure public on Twitter.

A permanent move to Blackpool, where he had been on loan after also spending spells with Millwall and QPR, looked to be on the cards but the Tangerines failed to meet Saints’ asking price.

Puncheon was left in limbo but after meeting Cortese to bury the hatchet, Puncheon is back in the picture and showing why Blackpool were so keen to recruit him.

The Londoner scored the only goal of the game in an English Premier League clash with Reading and has found the back of the net four times this season.

That victory moved the south-coast club up to 15th in the EPL table and Puncheon revealed after the game that he has learned from his mistakes.

“It’s all about growing and maturing as an adult and a player and I’m doing that now,” Puncheon said. “The gaffer (Nigel Adkins) has given me a platform and given me a chance and I’ve grasped it with two hands. That’s what’s happened and that’s why we are where we are.”

He added: “I learned a lot from all different types of experiences. That’s what’s helped me now to be settled and to mature as an adult and a player. I wouldn’t change anything the way I went about my career so far, I wouldn’t change any of it. That’s helped me grow as a player and as a human being.”

Puncheon is cherishing life in the top flight more than most, as he has played and scored in all of the top four divisions in England, experiencing plenty of ups and downs during his career so far.

He started out with Wimbledon and was part of the squad that became the MK Dons when they set up as a new club in Milton Keynes.

After being released in January 2006 he joined Barnet six months later and then had loan spells with non-League Fisher Athletic and Lewes.

Puncheon caught the eye with some outstanding displays for the Bees and was named in the PFA Team of the Season before moving to Plymouth for GBP250,000 in 2008.

His move to Home Park didn’t go to plan and he spent three spells on loan with his former club MK Dons.

Puncheon’s frustrating spell with Plymouth came to an end in January 2010 when Alan Pardew took him to Southampton, with Pardew then sacked and Adkins instilled as his replacement.

Adkins stuck with Puncheon in his starting line-up before the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the winger fall out of favour.

Puncheon then impressed in a loan spell at Millwall, which led to then-EPL outfit Blackpool giving him a chance to play in the top tier of English football.

He scored on his debut at Everton and also found the net against Chelsea but the Tangerines were relegated and he returned to St Mary’s.

Another loan move, this time to QPR, came about in the summer of 2011 but he was not so successful and after returning to Saints in January he was in hot water after criticising Cortese. But Puncheon has put that behind him now and is knuckling down to prove he can be a real asset in the EPL. His performances and goals have helped to lift Saints out of the bottom three and boss Adkins is delighted to see the flying winger flourishing.

The 47-year-old said: “We treat people as human beings and they have all got to be allowed to make mistakes and grow. All the credit that Jason will get now is down to him because he is the one who has got to do it. He’s a great story. It shows how well people can do when you give them an opportunity.”

FACTFILE THE PLAYER: Jason Puncheon POSITION: Winger CLUB: Southampton DOB: 26/06/1986 CLUB APPEARANCES: 284 CLUB GOALS: 45 MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Scoring on his EPL debut for Blackpool against Everton.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Being relegated with Blackpool at the end of his loan spell.

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