Danny Ings says he “never stopped believing” in himself despite difficult times at Liverpool when he hid his hurt for the benefit of the team.
Ings left Liverpool in the summer to join Southampton after an injury-plagued spell at Anfield.
The striker made just six Premier League starts in three seasons with Liverpool, but has already scored three goals in five league starts for Saints.
Ahead of Southampton’s clash with Chelsea on Sunday, he said: “I wanted to come away from Liverpool and challenge myself because I’ve never given up believing in myself or my ability to score goals and do well for the team.
“It was just getting back onto that stage and trying to play week in, week out, which I’ve been lucky enough to do so far.
“I’ve started off well but hopefully it’s just the start, the fitter I get throughout the season the more confidence I get and still getting used to the boys here, hopefully we can all score a lot of goals together and be more successful than last year.”
Reflecting on his time at Liverpool, Ings says: “I learned a lot under Jurgen Klopp, even when I wasn’t playing I was training with the lads every day and my game was still developing. I understood every decision he made and as a player you have got to respect that.
“After the situations I was in, it was a hell of a mountain to climb to try and get into the frame. Last season was my comeback season, I made 14 appearances, most of them off the bench, but for me it was a positive year after the two seasons before that. Jurgen, all of the lads and the staff were all fantastic. It’s a wonderful football club and there are people there I will miss a lot.”
Ings ruptured cruciate ligaments in his first training session under Jurgen Klopp in October 2015 and then suffered another serious injury a year later.
“The first time I got injured was a lot harder, I’d just made my England debut and felt like that was the start for me to establish myself at Liverpool,” he said.
“For that to happen so quickly after my debut was devastating. The second time round, after that break down, I thought I had to get back in the gym and refocus and make sure I come back as good as I can be and in the best shape.
“It was more the time I spent away from football that was difficult – watching the lads on TV, being at home and not being able to sort of contribute or be a part of it. It was very difficult but I’ve overcome it quite well and I’m in the best shape I can possibly be in right now.”
Klopp paid a heartfelt tribute to Ings when he left, saying “if you could bottle character and spirit, his would sell worldwide”.
“I’m extremely grateful that Jurgen came out and said that,” reflected Ings. “I always try and be positive, even if I’m not starting games or in the frame. As part of a team, it’s important you don’t show that side.
“You can be hurting so much inside but if that shows externally then that can have an effect on that team. That’s the last thing you want because no matter what team you’re part of and how much you’re playing you want that team to be successful.”
Asked whether he has any regrets, Ings said: “Every football player has their own journey and unfortunately my injuries were out of my hands. There wasn’t much I could have done about that except rehab to the best of my ability which I did.
“I worked every single day as hard as I could, earliest in, last one out just trying to get fit. It got to the point for me to go somewhere else and try to become an important player. And there is no better place to be than at home, it’s like a dream in itself.”