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Why James Ward Prowse Is No More Mr Nice Guy
Thursday, 7th Feb 2019 12:53

After nearly 7 seasons as a first team regular suddenly James Ward Prowse is starting to look like the player he has the potential to be, here we look at why that is the case.

Older fans will remember Steve Williams, the then teenage midfielder made his League debut at roughly the same age as James Ward Prowse, both a month or two shy of their 18th birthdays.

Ward Prowse made his League debut at then Premier League Champions Manchester City whereas Williams made his at Fratton Park a few days after Saints had won the FA Cup semi Final and the 1-0 win that evening saw Pompey relegated to the old division 3..

Both players had the ability to read a game and the ability to pick a pass and hit a shot, but up until now the similarity ended a little.

Williams had a nasty streak in him even at 17, he had an arrogance, he believed that he was as good as anyone else on that pitch and that he was in awe of no one.

In the coming years he was to be indispensable to the team, one of the first names on the team sheet, if he was fit he played and even when he was not fit he was sometimes risked as was the gamble that ultimately failed in the 1984 FA Cup semi at Highbury against Everton.

In contrast Ward Prowse looked like he would not say boo to a goose, he had the talent, but he did not have the nasty streak, he looked like he would apologise to opponents , he did not look like he actually believed himself that he should be on the same pitch as most of his peers in not only the Saints squad but other clubs as well.

But something changed when Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived and the Austrain has now spoken of how from the start he could see that JWP had what it takes, but he did not have that aggression and arrogance needed and something that the likes of Steve Williams had in abundance.

Hasenhuttl has famously sat down with all his players and given his honest opinion of what they need to prosper, his managerial style is all about boosting confidence and that seems to be working especially with James Ward Prowse.

Hasenhuttl said:

“I think I was very clear and very honest to him, which I think helps him a lot.

“I think Prowsey has made a good development with his aggression because that’s what I missed from him the most when I came here."

“He is a good footballing player and a nice guy, but now he showed that he can also be aggressive, win duels, win balls back and with his physical quality he can nearly play in every position.”

As well as cementing his spot in the heart Saints’ midfield, Ward-Prowse has also shown he’s capable to play as a full back. "

And Hasenhuttl revealed his ability to get in scoring positions is a mark of Ward-Prowse’s confidence.

“He showed us against Crystal Palace that he can score as a full back, as in the moment he scored, he was playing as a full back.

“I think this goal in this position you only score if you really wanted to – if you really go for it."

“As a full back to be in this position was perfect play from us, good deep runs which is what we are always demanding, and then they are shifting, shifting and shifting until it comes to the moment where they are one man less to defend this space and that’s exactly what we tried to do always."

“It was really calm finishing, not without thinking, but with the inside of the foot into the far side."

“It was perfect and shows how comfortable he feels right now in front of goal and how much self-confidence he has at the moment.”

Hasenhuttl is spot on and Ward Prowse's new found confidence and form is down to the Austrian taking time to look at his players and help them understand where they need to improve.

With JWP it is about belief and aggression, the belief he belongs in the Premier League and that comes with believing you are better than your opponent and wanting to outplay him not quite at any cost but not far off.

Look at the difference in his facial expression between the picture at the top of this page and the one below, his mindset has changed the determination can be read in his face..

Ward Prowse showed that determination against Crystal Palace when he refused to be bullied by Wilfrid Zaha, when the Palace man tried to psyche him, he stood firm and even made Zaha jump by pretending to throw the ball at him.

Some would say that this was a deliberate act to get the player sent off, but I would disagree, Zaha was the aggressor, JWP merely stood his ground and showed that he wasn't afraid to get close.

This is reaping the rewards for James who now seems to be an essential part of the team, when under Mark Hughes he was a bit part player.

Now he can perhaps go on and become the Saints legend that Steve Williams became, but perhaps before he gets to that level he has one more hill to climb, as Ralph said he can play in several positions including full back, Williams only had one position and that was in the heart of the midfield, you would not consider playing him elsewhere, he was too valuable in that position to do that.

Now James Ward Prowse has to keep his current form going and then he has to show that like Williams there is only one place to play him and that is directing operations in the centre of the park.

Some Saints fans moan about the lack of signings in January, but the truth is we have several players who could be likened to such, JWP is a new player, he played little part in the 9 months before Hasenhuttl arrived and he like Jan Bednarek, Matt Targett and several others are adding a new dimension to the squad that wasn't there under Mark Hughes or Manuel Pellegrino.

There could be a few more yet who follow his example, Callum Slattery looked the part and Josh Sims might just regain that promise he showed a couple of years ago add Michael Obafemi and we have a squad that can pull us clear.

Photo: Action Images

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saintmark1976 added 13:57 - Feb 7
Nick, another solid attempt at P R on behalf of S F C. However, I have seen them both and if J W P doubled his current level of ability he would still ony be half the player Steve Williams was.

underweststand added 13:58 - Feb 7
An interesting comparison Nick- (Steve Williams and JWP) - and one that I wouldn't deny.
Difficult for present day (younger) fans to understand the similarity (but there are a few games / clips of Steve W. still on You Tube).
The use of the word "arrogant " may seem somewhat negative to some, but perhaps we might say 50/50 together with " confidence", because both SW and JWP could read the game very well and weren't afraid to try something spectacular or "out of the ordinary".

It has taken time for Prowsey to come to grips with another part of his game whilst he had such a good reputation for dead ball situations which (sadly) very few Saints strikers ever took full advantage of . Yes it's good to see a bit of grit coming into his displays and although he may never develop into another Jimmy Case, we may be able to rate his progress by the number oif yellow cards he chalks up during a season.

He has an enormous advantage in the velocity of his shots which one doesn't expect with such an apparantly "slow-motion " backlift. Certainly one of Ralph's successes and almost as a good as a new signing from someone who has already been at the club (man and boy) for more than a dozen years.

NewburySaint added 15:16 - Feb 7
Have never been a fan of JWP but i do now have a new found respect for him after the way he wound up Zaha-it happened right in front of where we sit and JWP dangled the line and Zaha was well & truly hooked.

And i also like the way he stood his ground and smiled at the aggression rather than getting too involved-if i was a Palace supporter i would have been immensely embarrassed at Zaha's behaviour against a physically less imposing opponent.

BoondockSaint added 17:07 - Feb 7
Happy to see him progressing, scoring and getting a bit of grit into his game.
However still a work in progress: needs more practice on free kicks (If I remember correctly, only one goal last year and that was along the ground, not placed in an upper corner) and needs to hit the weight room-why previous managers never addressed this I have no idea!

Keep up the good work.

landerwal added 17:14 - Feb 7
Some months ago I wrote that JWP could get transferred and under the right manager start showing his full potential for another club. Thank goodness the "right manager" was RH . However, comparisons to Steve Williams are a little unfair on both players as football in the 80s was completely different from now being slower, less skilful and players are much fitter. The main point however holds, JWP is playing far better than any time in his Saint's career and could well be a most valuable mainstay of the side for the rest of this season and many seasons to come.

perazi added 22:00 - Feb 7
JWP has played better in the last few games and deserves credit for that. Whether that results in a longer term improvement on what he has shown in the previous 200 plus appearances is still to be proved.

As for the "no more Mr Nice Guy stuff" - if spitting at the feet of an opponent; faking throwing the ball to Zaha's face and then clapping and cheering when Zaha was sent off is being a tough guy, I'd prefer the meek and mild JWP. Just the same, Zaha was a complete prat and deserved the red card!

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