ORIOL Romeu is no longer Saints' forgotten man.

The midfielder didn't fit into Mark Hughes' plans and had to drop down to the under-23 side in a desperate attempt to get some game time.

But when the Welshman lost his job, Romeu's renaissance began, writes Dan Sheldon.

Ralph Hasenhuttl immediately breathed new life into the 27-year-old and he responded by securing his first Premier League start since the goalless draw with Newcastle in October.

Had you asked Romeu whether a return to the first team was a likely outcome under Hughes, he wouldn't have been so sure.

Daily Echo:

Former boss Mark Hughes

“As a professional, you always need to work hard and hope that when the chance comes, you take it,” Romeu explained.

“It seemed to me that it was impossible to get a chance a few weeks ago.

“The old manager had other things in mind.

“He probably didn’t like the way I played, or the way I was going about my daily things.

“Every manager has his own ideas and his own way of doing things.

“As a player, you have to understand that some people like the way you play, and other people won’t.

“I asked him if I could get some game time with the under-23s.

“I physically felt like I was losing my fitness and I needed to get to playing some games, otherwise every week it gets worse and worse.

“The longer you go without playing, the harder it is to get back into the team.

“Luckily, against Cardiff my chance came. I tried to do my best and help the team, but we didn’t win, and I am bitterly disappointed about that.

“I am already looking forward to getting another chance.”

Daily Echo:

Oriol Romeu

Since signing from Chelsea in 2015, Romeu has gone on to make 91 appearances for Saints.

He was recruited by Ronald Koeman to shore up the midfield after Morgan Schneiderlin’s departure to Manchester United that summer.

Having come through the ranks at Barcelona, Romeu was no stranger to playing with a high level of intensity.

This saw him fit seamlessly into Koeman’s plans and you could rely on him to consistently churn out solid performances in the heart of midfield.

But it was under Claude Puel that he enjoyed his best spell.

Romeu only missed one match of the 2016/17 season, which saw Saints play in the Europa League and reach a League Cup Final.

His efforts were then rewarded as he signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract in 2017.

The Spaniard continued to be a stalwart in Saints’ line-up under Mauricio Pellegrino’s failed tenure in charge.

However, when Hughes signed a permanent deal in the summer, Romeu became the forgotten man.

He continued to put the hard yards in at Staplewood until he got his chance, which eventually came from Hasenhuttl.

And Romeu believes his fortunes turned around when the Austrian arrived at Saints last week.

Daily Echo:

Ralph Hasenhuttl

“It’s been hard for the last few months I won’t lie,” he added.

“As a player, it’s been tough to be out there, but I assume we have to go through those moments.

“When a new manager comes in everything changes.

“Everyone has a new chance to show him that they are ready to play. That’s what I thought when he was coming in and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

“After a defeat it’s hard to say there has been a lift, but of course there are things that are positive.

“We think it will get better under him and we need to work hard to make sure we get every detail from him.

“Once we get to that perfect point, it should help with results.”

Given the fact that this is Romeu’s fifth manager in three seasons, he has become accustomed to learning a number of different playing style.

With Saints drifting away from a high pressing game, Hasenhuttl will have his work cut out to get his side back to their physical best.

His task is made more difficult given the hectic December period with Arsenal, Huddersfield, West Ham and Manchester City to play before the month is out.

Because of this, Romeu thinks it’s down to the players to digest as much of Hasenhuttl’s philosophy as they can if they are to improve.

Romeu added: “There will be a lot of things that are coming and so many changes.

“We have a lot of time before Arsenal to work with him and to get an understanding of all those changes.

“He wants us to play with a lot of intensity and to look for clever runs to go in behind the defenders and that when we lose the ball, we recover a lot quicker to win it back.

“The way he wants us to play is the right way.

“I think we will be a better team for it, but it takes time to get used to something we haven’t been doing.

“We need to get into that physical state as quickly as possible.”