James Ward-Prowse has spoken about his decision to commit his future to his boyhood club after a summer of speculation about Aston Villa’s interest in the Southampton captain.
Ward-Prowse was heavily linked with a move to Villa before penning a new deal in August, one that will tie him to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side until 2026.
Villa’s Premier League rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, were also credited with an interest in Ward-Prowse.
With Villa looking to strengthen their midfield, talk about a move for Ward-Prowse emerged shortly after the arrival of Emiliano Buendia in a club-record £30m deal from Norwich City was confirmed back in June.
Villa ended the summer transfer window without signing a midfielder, something supporters expressed concern about, but those fears have since been allayed by the performances of Jacob Ramsey, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz.
Ward-Prowse, meanwhile, would have cost a big transfer fee and if he had moved to Villa, and it would also have scotched any chance of Smith’s men signing Danny Ings, which they did later on in the window for around £25 million.
“It was the first time I have faced that kind of speculation, so it was a different challenge,” Ward-Prowse told BirminghamLive’s colleagues on the south coast at HampshireLive.
“I was also trying to come back from a knee injury at the time, so I had a few obstacles in the way during an important part of the season with pre-season going on, trying to build up my fitness, and that was difficult.
“It has been a bit stop-start, but I’m just trying to find that rhythm and consistency now.
“When I sat down and spoke with the club, it was immediately obvious that they were keen for everything to be sorted out.
“That was then a no-brainer for me. I love being here and to be a part of this club is really special.
“I’m pleased and really proud to continue this journey.”