Date:Friday February 2 2007
Saints reporter Adam Leitch reflects on what might have been for David Prutton, who yesterday completed a loan move to Nottingham Forest until the end of the season.
David Prutton's Saints career came to an end with a feeling that his potential was never fulfilled.
When Prutton joined on the last day of the first January transfer window in 2003 he was the club's third most expensive signing at £2.5m.
advertisementOnly Rory Delap and Agustin Delgado had ever cost the club more.
Much was expected of the then current England under-21 midfielder.
And initially the signs were good as he did well in the few months running up to the FA Cup final, though because he was Cup tied he was restricted only to league games, while the next season he made 30 appearances.
But the following season, 2004/05, the wheels came off, most notoriously when he received a ten game ban for shoving an official that ruled him out for most of the unsuccessful relegation battle.
Prutton's massive ban, for pushing a linesman during the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at St Mary's, was only one game less than Paolo Di Canio had sat out for his infamous push on referee Paul Alcock in 1999.
Prutton was also fined £6,000 and his 10-game suspension only finished ahead of the last game of the season. Despite his lack of match fitness, Harry Redknapp instantly recalled Prutton for the match against Manchester United, but there was no happy ending - for Prutton, Redknapp or Saints.
After that, he never rarely got back with injuries and falling out of favour with George Burley ultimately consigning him to an inevitable Saints end.
That was completed when he rejoined Nottingham Forest until the end of the season. Then his Saints contract will expire and he will be free to leave for nothing.
It's incredible to think a player that cost £2.5m four years ago and should now be in the peak of his career at just 25 is dropping down a division for free to try and kickstart himself.
But that is the reality.
Prutton's combative and feisty style of play endeared him to the fans but, ultimately, not to Burley who is strict on discipline - hence why Saints have one of the best records in the league for red and yellow cards.
He may have considered Prutton a liability, despite his talent a man whose short fuse meant you couldn't guarantee he would finish a game that he started.
Some might argue his passion is what Saints need in their side.
But Burley had made his judgement and that is all that ever matters in football.
It's also fair to say that Prutton hasn't fulfilled his potential.
When he arrived he looked like he really had something about him, but as time has gone on he's continued to look like that rather than producing top form.
Probably being a versatile player hasn't helped his cause as he has so often been used all over the midfield and failed to get a settled run.
The shove against Arsenal was where it all started to go wrong.
He lost some respect for landing Saints in trouble - ironically it came at a time where Prutton was really starting to shine and looked like he could help keep Saints up.
The incident was waiting to happen; too often it seemed his crunching late tackles were more those of a player who wanted to be noticed rather than out of genuine malice.
However, his reaction to it was a credit to him.
Rarely will you meet such an articulate, intelligent footballer and the way he spoke after the incident was quite remarkable.
On leaving, Prutton said: 'I am sad to be going but it is a good chance for me and it will be nice to play regularly again.
'Forest are in with a great chance of promotion which was a big factor in my decision. It is a very attractive place to play and I am looking forward to going back there.
'I will have a look and see what is happening at the end of the season but at this stage I don't think I am likely to be back at Southampton.
'I really do hope Saints get promoted. They have a great bunch of lads and good management. It is a great set-up, there are some very good people at the club and they deserve to be in the top flight.
'I will miss everyone and wish them all well. I had a fantastic time here which saw me cover just about every possible aspect of football. I will take away a lot of good memories'.
Prutton will be missed in the community as well where he did a huge amount of work as an ambassador for the club.
But all that really matters in football is on the pitch.
And it's such a shame he leaves under the cloud of never having produced the sustained form he seemed so capable of when he arrived.
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