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The Rascal

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An odd figure, one time outcast, one time hero. A man who brings at one time derision and confusion and another time respect and plaudits. An unexpected talisman in our season is Jason Puncheon, something that pundits predicted before the season but many long time Saints considered highly unlikely.

In January 2010 we first signed Punch. After a star turn for the away side in Franchise FC's 3-0 defeat at St Mary's in September 2009 he evidently caught the attention of then-manager Alan Pardew. A man with a checkered history; Puncheon had even dropped into non-league football after leaving Wimbledon's/The Franchise's youth system. Single appearances with Forest Green Rovers and Fisher Athletic saw him eventually snapped up by Barnet where he finally settled for a time. A move to then ambitious Plymouth Argyle in the Championship didn't work and led to him rejoining the familiar pastures of the Franchise on loan.

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Jason Puncheon in his time at Milton Keynes

His signing was greeted with optimism and his first impressions where outstanding. Goals against Walsall and Huddesfield looked to set him off to a flying start, yet it wasn't to immediately pass.

Puncheon was an ambitious, precocious young man. In Freddie Mercury's immortal words he wanted it all and he wanted it now! After missing out on promotion he would have been looking forward to pushing on in the next season. He didn't count on a remarkable talent in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. After a few frustrating appearances at the start of our League 1 promotion campaign he lost his place to young Alex. Jason's response was far from constructive. The toys were thrown from the pram and he was loaned to Millwall.

At Millwall he looked extremely good, a couple of goals in a league above his owning club signalled his talent, the following loan spell at Blackpool (after a decent performance against them in the FA Cup)..... in the Premier League no less signaled this further. Goals against Everton and Chelsea showed that he meant business, he knew his destination and it was clear he wasn't too fussy how he got there, just so long it happened as quickly as possible.

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Jason impressed at Blackpool in their recent one season premier league campaign.

Now in the championship, many fans hoped he would be back in the picture at St Mary's, but no. Conflict with manager Nigel Adkins and chairman Nicola Cortese saw him farmed out again. Big spenders Queens Park Rangers took him on loan. After his decent showing for Blackpool he could surely push on for the R's, No?

No indeed. The terms which saw him move to QPR seemed odd to say the least, rumours that he had paid the loan fee himself only intensified the gossip. Only two substitute appearances came for Punch as QPR stuttered towards January. On return he was as defiant as ever; public criticism of our chairman showed he had lost nothing of his hot-headed character. Yet within days, a shock came to pass. Reports he had made his peace with the powers-that-be at Southampton. He was back in the fold. Had Punch smelt the coffee? Or was our place in the league table the main reason for his newly sharpened focus? Saints were Premier League bound, our desired immediate destinations had suddenly become one.

Promotion came to pass, we became a Premier League Club again, Puncheon was again a Premier League player. Puncheon has flourished in that time. The rascal, the persona-non-grata, the odd one out has become a key man. Every inch the premier league player at last, goals against Aston Villa, Reading and most satisfying of all his old club Queens Park Rangers have seen him become key to our plans, to our season. Drawing plaudits from pundits and fans alike he is finally excelling in the environment he always wished to inhabit.

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His redemption complete against QPR with a wonderful strike

So, is this the happily ever after? Jason Puncheon's form will be attracting interest and his contract; the only thing that kept him tied to us during his more headstrong days, expires in the summer. Prior conflicts are still present in the memory, old wounds can only heal so much.

This rascal's saga is not over yet, there is no way that this story has concluded.

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Updated 14-12-2012 at 10:41 PM by Colinjb

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