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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 07:23 GMT
Prutton gets career back on track

By Sarah Holt and Jonathan Stevenson

Ask David Prutton about his career in football and the 25-year-old will rattle off a story up there with your average soap operas.

Prutton reacts to being sent off during the Arsenal game in 2005
Prutton furiously reacts to being sent off against Arsenal...

A fans' favourite at Nottingham Forest when he started his career, Prutton became villified after a moment of madness during Southampton's Premiership game against Arsenal on 26 February, 2005.

Incensed at his red card after a second booking for a foul on Robert Pires, Prutton first pushed referee Alan Wiley and then furiously tried to confront the assistant who had helped to send him off.

Four days later, Prutton was handed a 10-match ban and fined 6,000 by the Football Association.

The punishment cost Prutton the chance of trying to help his team stay in the Premiership, though he did return for the last game of the season when they lost 2-1 to Manchester United and were relegated.

Nearly two years later, the former England Under-21 international says he still cannot quite believe how high-profile the incident became.

Born: Hull, 12 Sept 1981
Nickname: Prutts
Career: Forest (155 games, seven goals) and Southampton (90 games, four goals)
International: Played for England U-21s

"As time has gone on it's been tempered a bit," Prutton told BBC Sport. "I remember at the time how bad I felt and how I was very regretful about the whole thing.

"But you look at what happened in relation to other things going on, not just in football but in the world, and you see that the culture we live in is very sensationalised.

"A lot of it is total rubbish and it didn't affect me in the way some people might have thought.

"I just thought 'how can people take it so seriously?' I'd apologised and held my hands up, but young men have to experience those sorts of things to grow up and it did help me grow up.

"I remember going to Soho Square and getting a telling off from the FA and thinking to myself how serious it all seemed to be. it was like going into a court case and I'd murdered someone, it was ridiculous.

"When I got back to playing I felt a lot calmer and realised there are some things you just can't control, so let people get on with it.

Prutton is led away by Southampton's coaching staff
...and is led away by members of Southampton's coaching staff

"People mention it on a weekly basis around here but it's a bit more tongue-in-cheek now. It's something I wasn't proud about but I don't want to dwell on it for the rest of my life and I won't."

Since Saints' relegation to the Championship, the 25-year-old has struggled with injury and has only played in 21 games over the past two seasons.

An ankle operation in August forced him to miss almost the first four months of the season and he made his first appearance of the campaign as a second-half substitute in Saturday's 4-2 win at Hull.

Prutton, once hotly tipped to break into the England squad, now just wants to concentrate on getting a run of games under his belt and getting back into the first team.

"I just want to play as much as I can," he added. "I'm desperate to get some stability and continuity in my game because it's been a bit up and down.

"I've got a lot to prove to myself and I want to keep improving.

"When I first arrived at the club [from Nottingham Forest for 2.5m in 2003] I was pushing on quite a bit, but the last couple of years have levelled off and I've not had the chance to improve myself.

I'm never going to win a World Cup or anything but I set my own targets

David Prutton

"It's part of football but it's still a pain in the backside. I had six years without any injuries and now I've had two injury-hit years.

"I just want to play for a club I like playing for and whatever comes after that is a bonus."

Prutton believes under the guidance of manager George Burley the club is heading in the right direction and says he would love another crack at the Premiership.

"The more I see us play the more I believe in promotion," said Prutton.

"Not getting into the play-offs would be deemed a failure from this season, once you get there it's just pot luck. But the top two is where everyone wants to be.

"George's ethos and the way he wants us to play football is a very good one, he comes from a background of playing an attacking game which is attractive to watch and I'm a fan of that style.

"On the training ground he's quite vocal, he puts his point across very well and he's articulate in the way he explains things to the players.

"There's a good spirit and a good bunch of lads and to be honest that's as important as being good players, you have to be able to integrate with each other and get on well."

The Hull-born midfielder is honest enough to admit his career has not quite hit the heights he would have liked so far.

But at just 25, time is on Prutton's side to put the troubles of the last two years firmly behind him.

"You start as a young lad trying to get your foot in the door and when you're younger you're a bit of a dreamer," he said. "Now I'm older, I'm more of a realist.

"That's not to say you lose sight of what you dreamt about, but you just realise what you're capable of and what you're not.

"Football is a game that can make you feel amazing but can also really upset you. Like in any job you have good and bad days, but you can't get too up or too down - not everyone can play well all the time, can they?

"It's been extremely interesting so far and I want to look back upon an interesting career.

"I'm never going to win a World Cup or anything but I set my own targets and when I finish I want to be able to say that I did the best I could, made a lot of good friends and played in some good places.

"You do realise that the Premiership is the only place to play football, it's fantastic.

"There's a lot of pressure to perform but there's also a lot of prestige that goes with it and you have to dream of playing at that level."

With Southampton fifth in the Championship and unbeaten in seven games, Prutton might just get the chance to ply his trade in the promised land of the Premiership sooner rather than later.

Southampton 1-1 Arsenal
26 Feb 05 |  Premiership
Prutton handed 10-game ban by FA
02 Mar 05 |  Southampton


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