Jack Cork has admitted to feeling “helpless” after losing his place in the team to Victor Wanyama this season.
The midfielder was a key figure in the club’s success over the previous two campaigns, but was ousted last summer by £12.5m signing Wanyama.
“It was a strange one, because I hadn’t felt that I’d done anything wrong,” said Cork.
“I finished a good season last year and I just felt a bit helpless really that I couldn’t do anything to effect what people thought of me.
“It was a bit frustrating. It felt like ages. It was only 15 games, but it felt like the longest period ever.”
Up until early December, Cork had only played about ten minutes of Premier League football, but he was given a chance to return to regular action when Wanyama suffered a hairline fracture in his leg.
“It was unfortunate that Victor had to get injured for me to get the chance, but I just wanted to go in and try and play,” said Cork, who has been in outstanding form and was credited by captain Adam Lallana for changing the game in last Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham, where he was introduced at half-time for Wanyama.
“I didn’t feel any pressure or anything different, I just wanted to be back out there, because I felt so frustrated at being left out.”
While he was disappointed at his lack of action in the first half of the season, Cork said he had no complaints about Wanyama being selected ahead of him to partner Morgan Schneiderlin.
“I was sort of prepared for it in the summer with what happened,” he said.
“Victor started the season really well and I had no complaints. We were winning a lot of games and sometimes that’s just football.”
Cork admitted that he had been unsure about his future at Saints earlier in the season.
But, after playing regularly for the last two months, his outlook has changed somewhat – so much so that he was pleased to hear the club rejected an approach from Swansea for him at the end of the January transfer window.
“The first thing I sort of heard about it was the manager saying ‘he is not going anywhere’,” explained Cork, who could start against Stoke today, with Wanyama suffering from a knock.
“Nothing really more happened and it was nice to hear the manager say he didn’t want me to go and was not for sale. “It gave me a little bit of confidence that I would be a good part of his plans.”
Cork’s contract runs until the end of next season and, while negotiations over a new deal have not started, he has indicated he would be willing to talk about one.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I mean, it was hard at the start of the season, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but things have changed, I’ve been playing a lot of games, and I do love being around here.
“I love everyone here, I’m so settled here. I love everything about it, so I would love to stay here, but, obviously, if things go back to how they were at the start of the season then things may change.”