Ryan Bertrand: Don't call Saints' start a fluke, and stop waiting for us to fall away
Standing still isn't something Ryan Bertrand has done much of over the course of his career.
Given he's a marauding left-back, that might be what you'd expect, but he's had to travel further than the length of the touchline and back in order to establish himself as a Premier League regular.
Over the last eight years, Bertrand has spent time on loan at Bournemouth, Oldham, Norwich, Reading, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa.
Having turned 25 this summer, a growing hunger for regular top-flight football saw the South London native make a seventh temporary move - this time to Southampton.
"Moving around the country hasn't been too much of a problem," Bertrand tells FourFourTwo. "I've just seen it as something I've needed to do. To be honest, I don't see how people can moan about the job we do; having to move around just comes with the territory.
"I feel very settled at Southampton. The club have been fantastic; it's a very nice place, the fans have been great all around the city, as have the staff and the other players - it's been a really good experience so far."
That is perhaps something of an understatement. Southampton have enjoyed a sensational start to the season, winning seven of their first 10 Premier League matches and climbing to second place in the table. In the process, they have confounded those pundits who suggested the Hampshire side would be relegated following the sales of Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana.
"We've started fantastically well and raised a lot of eyebrows, but I wouldn't say I was necessarily surprised by how we've started; I saw from the first day I trained here that the players we've got have real quality," Bertrand explains.
"I always had great belief that we could do good things - I wasn't really concerned [about the players that had left in the summer] because I was aware of the players the club had signed and the others they were planning to bring in. As you've seen, so far they've more than been up to the task of filling the boots of the previous players."
The new boss hasn't done a bad job either. Bertrand's loan exploits have meant he played under no fewer than 13 managers between his senior debut on loan at Bournemouth in 2006, and the start of this season (for the record: Kevin Bond, John Sheridan, Glenn Roeder, Bryan Gunn, Brendan Rodgers, Brian McDermott, Billy Davies, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benitez, Jose Mourinho and Paul Lambert).
But how does number 14 - Ronald Koeman - compare?
"He's pretty laid back, but not in terms of him being a pushover. If you're slacking in any department, he'll be the first to tell you. His career record - as a player and a manager - speaks for itself, but he's really humble and a nice guy."
Although Bertrand jokes that he's 'still waiting' for Koeman - a regular goalscorer during his playing days - to provide tips on becoming prolific from defence, he has clearly warmed to his latest coach. He is also benefiting from the Dutchman's more expansive tactics.
"We had a good chat before I signed and he talked about the way he liked to play football and it seemed a perfect match. He's giving me a real chance to go out there and express myself.
"He likes his full-backs to attack, so that gives me the license to get up there and try to provide the assists, but we're also pretty ruthless when it comes to defending. We pride ourselves on our clean sheets [Southampton kept six in the first 10 matches of the Premier League season], so it's a good blend.
"Although the fundamentals of our game are always the same, he [Koeman] will sometimes tweak it depending on who we're up against. He's very rigorous with his preparation and if he thinks there's a specific way we can hurt a team he'll highlight that.
"The way we play is a lot more football-orientated than any other club I've been at in terms of possession, passing, and certain movements involving the full-backs. Don't get me wrong, at all the other clubs I've played for I've always got on the ball and always got forward, but here there's more of an emphasis on the whole team's shape when the full-backs attack."
The focus on attacking shape certainly seems to be bearing fruit. Southampton have scored 21 league goals this season - only table-topping Chelsea have managed more - with another two of their summer recruits really catching the eye.
Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic may not have been household names before their arrivals in England from the Netherlands, but the pair have made more headlines than most this season; Pelle for scoring six goals in 10 matches, Tadic for assisting the same number.
"They're very good - right up there with the best of them," Bertrand enthuses. "Some people might not have known how well they were both doing in Holland, but their records were fantastic. It's obviously great for us that they've been able to repeat those performances - maybe even do better - in the Premier League.
"Other people may be surprised by how well they're doing, but I see it every day and I'm certain there's a lot more to come. They'll definitely be able to maintain what they're doing. What's happening is not a fluke - if you saw the way we work every day [you'd see], and we're constantly trying to improve."
The immaculately-groomed Pelle ("He doesn't spend that long, to be fair. He's not a vain guy - he's just one of the boys") has also earned a first call-up for the Italian national team, and has arguably been the signing of the summer.
But can Southampton's summer recruits - Bertrand included - really go the distance and make an unlikely push for a Champions League berth?
"We aren't getting carried away, we know it's a long season, but we're not sitting here saying we can't make it either," says Bertrand. "If you look around the league, there are a lot of teams dropping points - we just need to keep going, keep winning.
"A lot of people have been saying that we haven't played the big teams yet, but if people aren't classing us as a big team, I don't get why they're waiting to see how we do against the big teams.
"The way things are going, those top teams are going to be under a lot more pressure than we are. After those games [Southampton face Manchester City, Arsenal (twice), Manchester United (twice), Everton and Chelsea in the space of nine matches from late November], we'll be able to sit down and work out what's achievable."
A return to the Champions League would be a natural step for Bertrand, who won't rule out the possibility of making his move to the south coast permanent. The full-back made his debut in the competition in the final of 2012, as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties, with Didier Drogba providing the fairytale ending by scoring the winner in the shootout.
"I only found out at lunchtime on the day of the final that I'd be starting - there wasn't really any time to be nervous. One of my old managers - Billy Davies at Nottingham Forest - always used to scream 'play the game, not the occasion', and that was ringing through my head the whole day.
"I remember everything about the game, but I haven't watched it back. I'm not really sure why, I think it's something I'll do when I finish. It's something I'm aware of and I respect, but it's not something I want to sit on. I've still got a lot more stuff to do."
First up, helping Southampton write a fairytale of their own.
Ryan Bertrand was speaking ahead of the launch of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. To celebrate the launch, Call of Duty will be hosting a Day Zero 24 hour live stream on Monday 3rd November. To watch the action unfold visit www.callofduty.com/DayZeroUK and to play against Ryan on the night add DayZero01 or DayZero02 to your Xbox friends list. #DayZeroUK