RISING star Nathan Tella admitted he was “thankful” to Saints for showing faith in him last season, after recovering from a serious knee injury.

The talented 21-year-old, who is enjoying a breakthrough campaign with Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, previously lost 10 months of his career having torn his anterior cruciate ligament playing for the club’s B team in April 2019.

While admitting his “head was just all over the place” after sustaining the injury, Stevenage-born Tella put in the hard yards on his way to recovery – and even secured a three-year contract extension at the club last summer.

Asked what it was like to deal with such a serious injury problem, Tella told the Daily Echo: “It was really tough.

“I felt before the injury I was in a good place in terms of my fitness and in terms of my ability. I felt like I was flying.

“The injury happened which set me back about 10 months and my head was just all over the place at the start.

“It was like ‘will I come back and play football? Will I be at the same level? Will I be able to perhaps make an impression here at the club?’.

“All these thoughts were going through my head and I’m just thankful to the club that they’ve allowed me to get back to fitness and allowed me to have the opportunity to be with the first team now.

“Hopefully, I can just continue to prove them right and that it’s the right thing that they gave me the opportunity to stay and sign a contract.”

Former Arsenal youngster Tella made his Premier League debut for Saints against Norwich City, during project restart last season.

This campaign, the youngster has made five senior top-flight appearances – including coming off the bench to replace the injured Moussa Djenepo in last Monday’s impressive 1-0 victory over Liverpool.

Tella has also continued to impress for the club’s B team. He scored four times in a 5-2 victory for Dave Horseman’s side against Leicester last month.

That performance helped him secure a nomination for Premier League 2’s December player of the month award.

Asked what the past 12 months had been like for him, Tella replied: “It’s been like a rollercoaster. (The first) lockdown happened and coming back into training, I just felt like I needed to get fit because I was coming back from the injury.

“Coming back in, my main aim was just to get fit and train well, because I wanted to make up for lost time.

“Luckily enough I was getting fit to a good level. I had the opportunity to go and train with the first team – I impressed and from there everything just went up.

“Coming into this season my aim was just to stay fit and be ready when called upon.

“I have made my first start this season and played a few times in the Premier League, so there’s not much more I can ask for.

“I am really happy with what’s happening.”

Tella will hope to keep his place in Hasenhuttl’s squad when Saints make the trip to Leicester City on Saturday (8pm).