“YOU either are or you aren’t.”

That’s Saints captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s take on being a leader.

The Danish international was handed the armband by Ralph Hasenhuttl in Ryan Bertrand’s absence and then kept hold of it when the defender returned from injury.

Since being given the honour of captaining the St Mary’s side, Hojbjerg has continued his growth as the leader on and off the pitch.

Aged just 24, he has had to show a maturity beyond his years. 

Hojbjerg’s father, Christian, passed away in April 2014 after a battle with stomach cancer. The Saints midfielder was 17-years-old at the time.

“I think the older you get, the more experienced you get because stuff happens to you,” explained Hojbjerg.

“You grow into a certain position in your life and in your sport and I think that is happening with me.

“I really like to take responsibility. I would say I grow with responsibility.

“I am who I am, and I give what I can to the team and the club thinks I am worthy to be captain.

“I am very proud and very honoured. It is maybe the proudest moment of my career.

“You take it in, but you also know that you have a responsibility and you need to grow with it and work with it.”

Although he talks like a seasoned professional, Hojbjerg hasn’t stopped learning from those he shares a dressing room with.

When he was at Bayern Munich, the midfielder spent his time soaking in how Philip Lahm, Manuel Neuer and Bastian Schweinsteiger conducted themselves.

The trio of World Cup winners are all regarded as leaders, which is exactly why Hojbjerg gravitated towards them.

That’s not where his lessons in leadership ended, though.

When he was shipped out on loan, the Saints star continued to take note of the big personalities inside the FC Augsburg and Schalke changing rooms.

“Every time I have been in a dressing room, the first thing I do is look for the big players,” continued Hojbjerg.

“When I came into this dressing room, the people that had brought my eyes and ears to attention were the big players and the leaders. I looked at what they do, I listened to see what they said and watched how they would act.

“I always wanted to learn from them and I have been lucky to share a dressing room with big players and big personalities in my career.

“You take and learn a bit. You make mistakes and you learn and then you do good things.

“The more life happens to you, you develop a certain position in your life of who you are and what your values are.

“You are always the same, but you get stronger the older and more experienced you get.”

As a part of his natural step into captaincy, the 24-year-old even took into account what the big personalities were eating.

Former Saints captain Jose Fonte was known to take extra care in the Staplewood canteen when it came to nutrition.

Although, by the time he signed for Saints in 2016, Hojbjerg was accustomed to the smaller details that can make a huge difference.

He added: “At Bayern Munich, I looked for [Bastian] Schweinsteiger, I looked for the goalkeeper [Manuel] Neuer, I looked for [Philip] Lahm – he was awesome.

“Even Thomas Muller. He was a bit of a crazy guy but always gave 100 per cent and dedicated himself in terms of winning.

“When I was in Schalke, I played with [Benedikt] Höwedes who won the World Cup.

“At Augsburg, I was with [Alex] Manninger who played for Juventus and Liverpool as well.

“These are the types of players I always had good relationships with, so I just saw a bit of myself in them and maybe they said, ‘Here is the young lad who wants to learn’.

“When I came here, there was Virgil [van Dijk], Ryan [Bertrand], Jose [Fonte] and Dusan [Tadic].

They were all big players with big personalities. I was looking to them and studying what they would eat,”

However, now he has the captain’s armband, the learning won’t be stopping anytime soon.

“I would love one day to be a big player and a big leader, so when I stop my career people will say, ‘I was a good football player, but a good leader and a good professional’, revealed Hojbjerg.

“If they say that, then I will know I did ok.

“I want to be a big player. I am working for it every day and I’m trying to take the steps.”