Southampton and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has been speaking about he deals with the pressure that comes following a big defeat for club or country.
Gavin Bazunu says his mental strength has been a key factor in keeping him at the top level of the game.
The Southampton and Republic of Ireland No 1 has been playing first-team football since the age of 16 and had 150 senior appearances for club and country under his belt at the age of just 21.
Bazunu had an eye-opening first season with Saints as he suffered relegation from the Premier League and was dropped towards the end of the campaign in favour of Alex McCarthy by manager Ruben Selles.
He has since been restored as first choice by Russell Martin on the south coast, who back in August launched a staunch defence of Bazunu amid criticism from sections of the Southampton fan base.
The Dublin-born keeper has started all 11 Championship matches for Saints this season but has managed just a single clean sheet during last week’s 1-0 away win over Stoke City.
“It’s part of the game,” Bazunu told Irish media outlet RTE when asked how he copes with the pressure following a big defeat.
“Playing first-team football since the age of 16 has led me to a lot of exposure. I’ve got a lot of experience in terms of blocking out things and being resilient. I don’t feel I’d be anywhere near the level I am now without that mental strength. As a goalkeeper especially, the scrutiny is so heavy at the top level and for me, I just listen to the people who I know are going to make me better.
“It can be difficult because of the reach of social media these days, sometimes it’s impossible to stay away from it. You don’t want to have a complete blackout because then you never learn to take it on and be able to almost block it out.
“I think young players now have to work, not just on your technique and your tactics, it’s the mental side of the game that’s a massive part if a player is performing consistently at a high level. Every player you see out here performing at a high level has different mental tactics and mental fortitude to work against blocking those things out.
“Finding that balance is a massive part of it because at the end of the day we’re footballers but we’re all human beings and you have to be able to live your life outside of football. I do have someone I work with both in and outside of the club and a lot of people around me in my circle who I listen to a lot and they are the ones who keep me strong.”
Ireland have two matches during the October international break as they take on Greece this Friday (October 13) at the Aviva Stadium before heading to Gibraltar next Monday.
Both games are qualifiers for Euro 2024, though Ireland’s chances of qualifying for next summer’s tournament are beyond slim as they sit fourth in their five-team group with just three points.