JAN Bednarek has flown in the face of adversity and proven himself – now he's set to be at the heart of Poland’s World Cup campaign.

Having initially been an outcast at Saints, he finished last season as an important part of the club’s successful relegation battle and, off the back of that, he finds himself starting for Poland.

After a superb run in the Saints team, Bednarek made the cut for Poland’s World Cup team and has started their two tournament warm-up games, suggesting he’s about to play a central role for his nation just ten months after his senior debut.

The centre-back was bought from Lech Poznan last summer for £5m, a record for a Polish league player.

He arrived hot on the heels of Claude Puel’s exit from St Mary’s last June, having been targeted before the Frenchman’s departure because of his burgeoning reputation in his homeland.

The rangy centre-back made it clear from the beginning of his St Mary’s career that he wasn’t there just to make up the numbers.

“It’s not like I started playing football two days ago. I’ve played for ten years and I’m ready,” he said in his first interview with the Daily Echo.

“I’m confident and ready to be in the squad.”

Even after Wesley Hoedt’s arrival from Lazio in a £15m switch, pushing Bednarek down the pecking order further, he was still adamant that he was ready to play Premier League football.

Except new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino scarcely saw him as an option.

His debut came in the disastrous 2-0 defeat to eventual Championship winners Wolves in the League Cup at St Mary’s in August.

Wolves deployed a reserve side that night and Bednarek was part of an experimental Saints team, which featured a work-in-progress five-at-the-back system.

It didn’t go to plan and, well, Bednarek didn’t shine at all.

Nonetheless, the 22-year-old got his head down and showed outstanding professionalism, staying focused in training, digging in and waiting for his next chance.

While the chaos of a relegation battle and the deteriorating situation under Pellegrino ensued, Bednarek was untainted by it, waiting.

Bednarek got his first call-up to the Poland first-team, having so far been a leading name in the under-21s set-up in September 2017, coming on as a last minute substitute in a 3-0 win over Kazakhstan.

That milestone wasn’t the start of a turnaround at St Mary’s, though, and he mainly appeared for Saints’ under-23s in the latter part of 2017.

His second first-team appearance came in the 1-0 FA Cup third round win at Fulham, but despite playing the full match was still behind Hoedt, Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida in the centre-back pecking order.

Pellegrino didn’t give him another playing opportunity but after the Argentine was sacked after just one win in 17 Premier League games, Bednarek’s chance was not far away.

Saints were painfully beaten 3-2 at Arsenal in April, which further deepened their relegation troubles and with Stephens sent off and subsequently banned for three games, there was suddenly an opening in the five-man backline.

New boss Mark Hughes admitted he’d been impressed with Bednarek’s application in training and, considering he was unmarked by the troubles of the relegation scrap, the Pole was handed his Premier League debut against Chelsea.

The youngster fired in a goal and came out with plaudits despite Saints losing 3-2 to Chelsea after being two goals up.

Bednarek started all but one of Saints’ seven remaining games as they narrowly sealed survival and showed his passion for the cause when he was knocked out but still wanted to carry on in the vital 1-0 win at Swansea in early May.

Because of the concussion at the Swans, he was unavailable for the Premier League finale against Manchester City.

But Bednarek did enough in that run-in to prove to Poland boss Adam Nawałka that he was ready for a call-up.

He made the initial 35-man cut for the World Cup and impressed enough to make the final 23-man squad, before he played every minute of a 2-2 friendly draw against Chile and started in a resounding 4-0 win over Lithuania.

Now, he is heading for Russia, where he will face Colombia, Senegal and Yoshida’s Japan in Group H.

Some rise to the international stage after spending so long waiting for his chance at Saints.

“We’re really pleased for him and I think it’s recognition for how well he did when he came in,” Hughes said recently. .

“He did that under difficult circumstances because we’d lost Jack (Stephens, through suspension).

“We could have moved people around and used senior players in different positions but I’d seen Jan in training and I felt that he was ready.

“He has good ability and I liked his character in terms of his determination to training correctly and being ready if we needed him.

“You’re never quite sure with young players if they can embrace everything that you tell them or have an immediate impact, but he was excellent in every game he played.

“He was unfortunate to go out of the game in Swansea, but he deserves the international recognition and their group is maybe lacking good young centre-halves.

“If he’s asked to play a role for his country then I’m sure he’ll do exactly what he did for us, and that’s play well.”