By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Southampton’s new goalkeeper Angus Gunn is yet to make a Premier League appearance but is already setting his sights on a place in England manager Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad.
The 22-year-old Gunn, son of former Norwich City and Scotland keeper Bryan, joined the south coast club in July from Manchester City in a 10 million-pound ($12.8 million) deal having never made a senior appearance at the Etihad.
He knows that achieving his lofty ambition will not be easy as first he must nail down the number one spot at Southampton, where he faces stiff competition from compatriots Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster, both of whom harbour international ambitions.
Then there is the queue for an England squad place currently containing 24-year-old Everton stopper Jordan Pickford, who performed magnificently at the World Cup, Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Burnley’s Nick Pope, not to mention former Man City team mate Joe Hart.
Gunn could be forgiven for opting to make himself available for Scotland, such is the plethora of goalkeeping talent in England. That option is not closed, he says, but he believes his move to Southampton can help him fulfil his England dream.
“I could have stayed (at City), been the number three or number two but I didn’t really see that developing my future,” Gunn said in an interview at an event organised by club sponsor Virgin at St Mary’s Stadium ahead of Sunday’s Premier League opener against Burnley.
“I would like to think that this a new chapter for me and hopefully I can get some Premier League football because I didn’t really see the opportunity there.”
Gunn went on loan to second-tier Norwich last season playing in every one of their 46 league games and becoming a favourite with the Carrow Road crowd who once cheered his dad.
So impressed was England manager Southgate he invited Gunn to join the World Cup training camp before the team departed for Russia.
The fact that fellow former under-21 international Pickford made such an impression in Russia has given Gunn belief he could follow the same path.
“Yeah, I hope I can get in the squad for the (2020 Euros), Gunn said. “There is an under-21 tournament in Italy at the end of the season which is the main thing to concentrate on.
“I was there in Poland last year when Jordan had a great (under-21) tournament and this year he played in the World Cup.”
Gunn likes to think of himself as one of the new breed of keepers who are equally happy with their feet as well as their hands — something City boss Pep Guardiola demanded.
However, it was the thought of working with English goalkeeping coach Dave Watson that was a factor in joining Southampton.
“His pedigree was a big influence,” Gunn said. “He was one of the first to say he wanted me at the club. I had never really worked with an English goalkeeping coach in senior football and it was something that I really wanted to do.
“After being at City for a few years I had a few different goalie coaches and different nationalities and everyone seems to want to change things about you. Dave is very old school and just says keep the ball out of the net.”
There is no guarantee he will dislodge McCarthy as Mark Hughes’ first choice on the south coast — but Gunn is relishing competing for the keeper’s jersey.
“You can’t expect anything in football,” he said. “Everything is tough. Alex had a great season here last year and was part of the reason the club stayed up.
“Basically they said it’s a very competitive group and they wanted me to come in and challenge for the number one spot. Hopefully I’m in contention to start on Sunday.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)