STUART Armstrong’s already earmarked one of next season’s fixtures.

Leeds’ 16-year absence from the Premier League came to an end this summer as they won the Championship title by 10 points.

For Armstrong, a trip to Elland Road will undoubtedly lead to ticket requests – if fans have returned to stadia – from members of his family.

Growing up, Saints’ Scottish midfielder used to visit his grandparents in Leeds and would often be taken to watch the one-city club in action by his grandad.

And, having played there just once in a pre-season friendly for Dundee United, the 28-year-old is expecting next season’s Premier League fixture to be even more surreal.

“I used to watch Leeds a lot when I was younger,” Armstrong told the Daily Echo when asked to recall his Elland Road memories.

“I had some grandparents who lived close to Leeds and they used to take me to Elland Road to watch Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell.

Daily Echo: Elland RoadElland Road

“You know what it’s like going to a Premier League game at that age, going up the steps to the pitch and realising what a fantastic experience it is.

“I played a pre-season game there once with Dundee United a long time ago and it was quite a surreal moment.

“I remembered being in the stands watching the games to then be playing on the pitch, it was a really strange feeling.

“But I think next season, with them coming up, it will be even stranger going there to play, especially thinking back to all those years ago when I used to sit in the stands with my dad and brother.

“I’m sure my family will want to come to that one.”

The 2019/20 season was a strange one for Armstrong.

After arriving from Celtic the previous summer many hoped he would be able to finally become a regular in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s starting XI.

But it didn’t work out like that.

By his own admission, he found his lack of game time incredibly “frustrating” and he knew something had to be done about it.

This led to a frank discussion with Hasenhuttl where he asked the Austrian what he needs to do to become a regular starter.

Daily Echo: Stuart ArmstrongStuart Armstrong

Saints’ boss worked with Armstrong and he went on to become one of the club’s most important players during the second half of the season, scoring and creating goals.

Reflecting on his second season in England, Armstrong added: “I think on a personal note it was very frustrating at the start of the season.

“You want to play, so you have to wait and stay patient which can be very frustrating.

“I think understanding what the manager wants from me and being able to give that and help the team and chip in with a few goals has been the most pleasing part for me.

“Once you get into the team, you want to stay there.

“I’ve been able to do that with a few goals and a few assists, so that’s been a great turnaround for me personally and I’m very happy to have done that.”

Aged 28, Armstrong’s on the cusp of entering his peak years and he believes there’s still plenty of room for improvement, adding: “I hope there is more to come because I think there is always something to learn and improve on and I will keep trying to do that.

“I love attacking and helping with goals and assists and if I can improve that side of it by increasing those numbers then that would be fantastic going into next season.”

As well as increasing his own output in the upcoming campaign, Saints’ fans are starting to believe that Hasenhuttl will be able to extract even more out of his players.

Talk of challenging for the Europa League spaces has started to become louder, especially as the form table showed Saints would have finished fifth in the league if it started after the international in November.

Armstrong comes across as a character who doesn’t get too high during the good times but also keeps a calm head during the low moments.

This level-headed approach means he’s not allowing himself to start thinking about where this team could end up next season.

“We had a run of games where we let ourselves down a bit and you can think, ‘What if?’, but I’m sure all the teams look at themselves in that way,” the former Celtic man continued.

Daily Echo: Stuart Armstrong managed to win over the St Mary's crowdStuart Armstrong managed to win over the St Mary's crowd

“I think we have to deal with reality and know where we can improve.

“Getting off to a good start is important and that’s a high priority for us next season.

“But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and start targeting final positions when the league hasn’t even started.”

When it comes to his playing career Armstrong appears to not look too far ahead but the same can’t be said for his plans for life in retirement.

It’s widely known that he completed a Law degree with the Open University, something he tries to avoid talking too much about.

John Rankin, Armstrong’s ex-teammate at Dundee United and former PFA Scotland chairman, said players should view the Saints star as a “role model”.

The 28-year-old laughs this off but does realise it’s important to plan for life after football.

“It’s something over the years that I’ve thought about more and more coming towards the later stages of my career,” he added.

“But it’s probably like anything in life, some players won’t know what to do with their career until they have to decide on something, so maybe they won’t have that feeling until they finish playing.

“But some will know beforehand.”

Asked if he fancies a career in coaching, Armstrong responded: “It’s a tough question.

“I suppose you won’t know until you really reach the latter part of your career when it’s something you have to have a really serious think about because it will be coming soon enough.

“Maybe coaching and managing is something you might consider and something I might consider going forward.

“But it would probably be nice to take a step back from football once your playing career stops but that doesn’t mean you can’t come back to it.

“When you spend so long in the routine of playing football, in the routine of football and in the football bubble it would be quite nice to step out of it and see what real life is and doing some normal things.”