AS a boy, Danny Ings dreamed of playing for Saints while kicking a ball with his dad on Netley Recreation Ground.

But today the Burnley striker is hoping to inflict a fourth successive defeat on the club he grew up supporting – and who rejected him when he was still at Netley Abbey Primary School.

“I was devastated when they let me go,” he said.

“I always dreamed of playing for my hometown team so it wasn’t nice. I was ten and was hoping to get into the academy but one of the coaches said I was too small.

“I was gutted and have just about got over it! I had to take it on the chin. I went back to basics and enjoyed my football for my dad’s team, Itchen Tyro, until I had trials at Bournemouth when I was 15.”

Ings’ dad Shayne is the major influence on his career.

“He got me kicking a ball before I could walk!” laughs the 22 year-old, who has two older sisters. “My parents still live in the same house near Netley Rec where we’d be out every day without fail. Just us with a football in a field.

“Dad was tough at times. There were no toys or games, just a football. But he helped me get to where I am today.”

Ings senior still works as a self-employed bricklayer – “he’s in the build-INGS business,” quips Danny – and also used to be a regular player on Netley Rec for Hampshire League outfit Netley Central FC.

“I used to watch my dad play for them,” continues Danny. “He started off as a winger and ended up being a full-back. He thought he was better then he was!”

Ings was schooled at Hamble Community Sports College and a scholarship took him to Brockenhurst College after impressing in a trial for AFC Bournemouth in his last year at school. After scoring seven goals in 27 League One games, he followed Eddie Howe to Burnley three years ago.

Last season he scored 21 goals as Burnley were promoted to the Premier League, plus five in cup competition – including one at St Mary’s in a seven-goal FA Cup third-round thriller.

It was his first game at St Mary’s since playing in a soccer school’s five-a-side tournament before the ground’s first league match, against Chelsea in August 2001. Ings netted Burnley’s equalising second goal, after they had trailed 2-0 at half-time. When Saints regained their lead through his former Burnley teammate Jay Rodriguez, he nearly scored again – only to be denied by a post. Then Adam Lallana struck a classy winner before a late consolation set up a tense finish “Getting the goal was a proud moment, I had a lot of friends and family there to see it,” recalls Ings. “It was a strange game and it could have gone either way. But Adam Lallana came on and killed it by doing what he does.”

Another Saints reject, Sam Vokes, scored Burnley’s first goal that afternoon. He and the diminutive Ings scored 48 goals between them last season. But, like Rodriguez, the bigger half of the little-and-large partnership has been out all season with a serious knee injury, a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

“Sam will be back soon but this is a bit early for him which is a shame for his dad, who’s a massive Saints fan,” laughs Ings. Then there is Lukas Jutkiewicz, who is also Southampton born-and-bred and also focused on Tyro League football after leaving his hometown club, before being picked up by a League One outfit.

It is uncanny that all three Southampton lads should be united at far-flung Burnley. “It’s been a good journey for all of us,” says England Under-21 international Ings. “I didn’t get my chance down there and want to do well against my home club no matter how much grief I get off my friends! But I’m not a bitter person, I think it’s fantastic what they’ve done this season.

“A lot of people questioned whether they’d be the same team after losing a few big players, but they’ve shown how good they are. They’ve been playing beautiful football.”

Ings has also created a beautiful project this season. The Danny Ings Disability Sports Project provides football coaching for disabled children and those with learning difficulties.

It came about after Ings gave his boots to disabled Burnley fan Joseph Skinner on the last day of the 2012-13 season. Ings discovered the moment was photographed when it went viral on social media.

“I’ve always gone to charity events and thought I would have my own!” he says. “The aim is to create Burnley’s first adult disabled team and it’s a project I’m looking to expand – possibly back in Southampton one day.”