Victor Wanyama made history on his Southampton debut in August as it meant Kenya became the 100th country outside of the United Kingdom to have a Premier League player.

Wanyama had long dreamed of making his mark in the Premier League but had hoped it would be for what he achieved on the pitch, rather than through a quirk of fate.

As a child in Nairobi, the midfielder wanted to be the next Patrick Vieira or Roy Keane of the Premier League and, during Southampton’s early-season rise to fourth, some pundits said they could see a touch of Vieira in his play.

As I remind him of that, he laughs: “Yeah, people did say I play like Vieira. I like going forward from midfield. The manager does not ask me to stay back but you have to pick the moments to go.” But then, as if realising this may sound as if he is trying to present himself as the new Vieira, he says: “It is not for me to say I am a Vieira.”

What the Kenya captain will talk about are his ambitions that go beyond personal glory. “Everyone back home is looking up at me to show people that Kenyans can play and open doors to others. We Kenyans have a lot of talent. It’s just that we don’t have scouts going there. I hope I will raise the profile so in the future the scouts go there, then our players can show their skills.”

His own opportunities to persuade scouts to get on the next plane to east Africa received a setback in December when he chipped a bone in his leg against Aston Villa, sidelining him for nearly two months. But as we speak, just hours after his return in Saturday’s match at Fulham, where the Saints won 3-0, it is clear the joy that marked his game before the injury is back.

He laughs at the thought that Mauricio Pochettino sees him as a lucky charm. “Maybe. I was unlucky to get injured and the injury was really bad, a hairline fracture. It was very hard for me. It put me back six, seven weeks. I had not played any games before Saturday. I was fit but did not know when I was going to play. Then before the match the manager said he wanted me to play and told me to go and express myself.”

Those were also the words Pochettino used when he signed Wanyama from Celtic for a then club record fee of £12.5million. His arrival was also the work of Nicola Cortese, then managing director. “He, along with the manager, convinced me to come here. I think he had good plans for the club.”

Those plans seemed in tatters when Cortese quit last month after a disagreement with owner Katharina Liebherr. The squad have since been addressed by the owner and Wanyama said: “She came and spoke to the team. Everything went well.”

Impact: Wanyama, seen here in action for Southampton, is quick to credit Europe for his footballing educationImpact: Wanyama, seen here in action for Southampton, is quick to credit Europe for his footballing educationIt will take more than news of such a meeting to reassure fans, more so if Pochettino, brought to the club by Cortese, leaves at the end of the season. “I really don’t know about that,” says Wanyama. “I cannot speak for the manager. My relationship with the manager is just to work on the pitch.

“I arrived in Southampton soon after he arrived [in January 2013], so it was a little bit easier for me to adapt to his style and gel with the team. The manager brought his own style of play, more of a passing game. He wants us to really pass the ball and we talk about how I can improve.”

Pochettino usually gives his press conferences in Spanish but Wanyama says: “He speaks a little bit of English which everyone understands and I have a very good relationship with him. But managers are always under pressure and it’s not easy.”

The job became all the harder for Pochettino when record signing Dani Osvaldo headbutted Jose Fonte during training two weeks ago. I am talking to Wanyama just as news has emerged that Osvaldo has been sent on loan to Juventus, with the Italians having an option to buy the striker in the summer.

Not surprisingly this is one subject Wanyama does not want to discuss. “I don’t want to say anything about that because I get along with everyone.”

He is so keen to impress on me how all the players get on that he says his life at the club’s training ground is even better than the one he experienced at Celtic. The Parkhead club left him with many great memories and he scored the winner against Barcelona in November 2012. “It’s the best goal I’ve ever scored,” the 22-year-old says.

But, while he emphasises he got on with all the squad at Celtic, he says: “I would say my team-mates here [at Southampton] have been a little bit easier to get on with because they are really good team-mates They’ve also been very helpful in making me part of the team here.”

Wanyama’s affection for his team-mates may reflect the fact they have helped him get to grips with the English game. “Here the pace is much faster, the intensity is much higher. It takes a bit of time to adjust. In England I would say you don’t have that time on the ball that you get in Scotland. So I had to adapt to the pace here.”

Adjusting to different conditions is something Wanyama has been doing since he was 13, when he came from Nairobi to join the academy at Helsingborg, the club his brother McDonald Mariga was playing for. He thought of following his sibling to Parma, when McDonald moved to Italy in 2007 but still only 16, Wanyama says: “I just wanted to go home.” Home meant the JMJ Academy in Nairobi. But this only lasted a few months before he returned to Europe, joining Anderlecht.

He is quick to credit Europe for his footballing education. “If you come to Europe from Africa you have to always prove yourself. But I have learned a lot in Europe, in terms of the game and also the physical side of it.”

He has also learned how to adjust to grim news that can go much beyond the game. So last September, as he was in his hotel room in Liverpool preparing for his first visit to Anfield, news came through of the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Reassured his relations were safe, he went on to play a major part in Southampton’s triumph that day.

“With the incident happening before the game it was a tough time for me,” he says. “But when I’m on the pitch I try and forget everything and just play football because I love it.”


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