TOMAS Rosicky made an emotional second debut in Sparta Prague’s 2-2 draw at the weekend, but won’t be ready to start against Saints in the Europa League.

The former Arsenal man, who left the Gunners this summer at the end of contract after ten years, returned to the Czech league for the first time in more than 15 years, coming on in the 72nd minute to a standing ovation at a packed-out Generali Arena.

“It was a wonderful experience for me,” said the 35-year-old, who made his last appearance in his homeland in December 2000 in a 2-1 win over Sparta’s arch-rivals Slavia Prague. “I’m really thankful to the fans.”

While he got his first minutes of game time under his belt since the Czech Republic’s 2-2 draw against Croatia in June at Euro 2016, when he injured his thigh, he will not be ready to start at St Mary’s on Thursday, when Claude Puel’s side face Sparta in their opening Group K match.

“I felt pretty good with the ball,” Rosicky said after the draw with Mlada Boleslav.

“But I need at least one more week of a decent training to be ready to play from the beginning.”

Rosicky, who moved from Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal in 2006, was not impressed with Sparta’s performance levels, suggesting that they are not hitting their best as they prepare for their trip to St Mary’s.

Prague, where Rosicky started his career in 1998, are sitting second in the Czech First Division table, behind FC Fastav Zlin.

“Everyone could see it was not good,” Rosicky said. “We need to improve.”

Rosicky has played 105 international games and said he still has not decided yet if he wants to continue with the national team.

Sparta will be aiming to end a 33-year record without a victory on English soil as they head to the south coast.

But with the return of Rosicky, who offers vast experience of the Premier League, there is plenty of optimism in Sparta’s ranks.