|Date: Sunday April 18th Start: 18:30 BST Conference location: Wembley Stadium. Cover: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live plus text commentary on the BBC Sports website|
“It’s one of the reasons I am determined to always make my family proud.”
Southampton winger Nathan Redmond talks about his mother Michelle, the greatest influence in his life.
Had it not been for their overwhelming love and support, Redmond might not be dropping out in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley this weekend.
Before making his hometown club Birmingham City debut at the age of 16 and still studying for his GCSEs, Redmond trained alongside Lee Bowyer, Barry Ferguson and Stephen Carr after joining Alex McLeish’s first team.
“There were times when I didn’t want to go back to training because I was kicked every day,” he tells BBC Sport.
“Sometimes I would come home crying because all these tough players were throwing chunks out of me. The support of my mother and a few other players in this group allowed me to get through.”
Since surviving the school of hard blows in Birmingham, Redmond has scored 27 goals and 20 assists in 229 Premier League games. He has scored in a play-off final of the championship and – if only about 20 minutes – played for Gareth Southgates England.
Michelle, who worked six days a week and juggled two single parent jobs, was encouraging, persuasive, and screaming from the moment he first kicked a soccer ball.
“It enabled me to achieve my dreams,” added Redmond, who hopes to inspire Southampton to reach their first FA Cup final since 2003 when they face Leicester City on Sunday.
Redmond came in 2017 as a substitute for England’s 0-1 defeat against defending World Cup champions Germany in Dortmund
“Mom chased team coaches on the autobahn”
Michelle was at St. Andrew’s in August 2010 when her son appeared as a substitute for 12 minutes against Rochdale at the start of a League Cup run that would end with Blues winning the trophy after beating Arsenal at Wembley.
Watching him make his first team debut at the age of 16 years and 173 days was a reward for all the hours she had spent with him and his younger brother Niall.
“She’d work all week and Sunday was her only day off,” said Redmond, who was on the books in Birmingham from the age of eight to 19 when he joined Norwich, in the Premier League Deal worth £ 3.2m in 2013.
“But Sunday was also a game day when I was growing up. Mom worked late on Saturday and sometimes when it was time to go to my game early the next morning I found her asleep on the sofa, still in her work clothes.
“She would still drop me off to home games, go home to shower, change, and come back and watch.
“If it was an away game and I was in the team manager, she would chase it down the highway and call one of the coaches to tell him to drive past a gas station so she can get in and watch us play.”
“I didn’t understand the sacrifices she made until later.
“I was on the bench traveling to away games with the first team just before I did my GCSEs. When you’re a kid you think ‘there’s no point I’m going to be a footballer’ but my mom made sure to put them.
“I can’t remember how many GCSEs I passed. I didn’t get a clip around my ear so I guess I did pretty well.”
“I only remember the game because I got very drunk afterwards,” said Redmond of his recollections of Norwich promotion after scoring against Middlesbrough in the 2015 championship play-off final at Wembley
6 am gym visits
Though training with the likes of Bowyer, now Birmingham’s manager, and other high-profile professionals was a bloody experience for the student trying to impress, Redmond quickly learned to step up.
“The kind of player you wanted to be wasn’t really interested because they were fighting for their place and you’re just a little kid trying to prove that you can be on the team,” he added.
It taught Redmond, who would be at the gym by 6 a.m., to work on strength and fitness, moving the ball faster, and improving his first touch. These qualities have served the 27-year-old during a career that included one League Cup Finals Appearance in 2017.
“When I started playing for the Birmingham first team, the players who knocked me out in training protected me in games,” said the goalscorer of 10 goals in 38 English U21 games.
“I am my greatest critic”
Southampton go to the semi-finals after a disappointment 3-0 defeat at West Brom, Despite having contributed to five goals in his last three games – three goals and two assists – he has brought in £ 5,000 for the Right To Play charity.
He is the ambassador for the international organization that uses sport and play to raise disadvantaged children around the world and visited Ghana in 2019 to see their work.
Not only does Redmond donate a lump sum to the charity, but they donate £ 1,000 each time they score or sponsor a game.
Now in his fifth season at St. Mary’s, the winger, nicknamed “Reddy” by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, is one of Saints’ most experienced players after leaving Norwich for £ 10 million in 2016 and is a “big brother” to Michael Obafemi, the 20 year old Republic of Ireland forward in Southampton.
Redmond also assisted Che Adams with the settlement when he arrived in 2019. Both were former players from Birmingham.
It wasn’t all easy for Redmond, who was criticized by fans at times when he suffered from a Loss of form and confidence.
“As much as you are criticized by fans or experts, I think you, as a player, are at heart your biggest critic,” said the man who has contributed to more FA Cup goals for Southampton than anyone since joining.
“I won the Player of the Season, but there were times when I didn’t play that well. I try to focus on being more consistent.”
Appeared as a substitute in the loss of Southampton to the eventual winners Chelsea in 2018, This is Redmond’s second FA Cup semi-final.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday, Redmonds Nan, Jenny, knows that her grandson has already “made it” in life.
In 2018 he appeared on an episode of the BBC’s long-running TV sports quiz show A Question of Sport.
“I’ve been in a first-team environment for 10 years, playing for England and winning a play-off final, but my Nan would say you didn’t make it unless you are in A Question of Sport published.” ,” he laughs.
“After the episode aired, she called me and said, ‘Nathan, everything is fine – you did it now’.”