The number of days since Harry Lewis last played for the Southampton first team.


The number of days since Harry Lewis last played for any first team - in the Scottish Premiership play-offs for Dundee United. 

The goalkeeper has had to wait and wait (and wait some more) for his opportunity and he can barely contain his excitement now that it is finally arriving.

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“It's given me a real hunger and a real fire to go and prove people wrong to an extent,” Lewis told the Daily Echo. “That's one way of putting it. But yeah, it's just it's made me hungry to make up for lost time, if you will. I'm 24. So I'm still young in terms of a goalkeeper. I still believe that I've got a lot to give. And I've got plenty of years left. Plenty of appearances to go make now."

Last month, Lewis’ Saints career came to an end as he departed the South Coast for Bradford City. It’s been quite the journey to get here, a journey etched with periods of disappointment and darkness. But it’s also a journey that’s helped him “grow up” and become the person he is today.

After arriving from Shrewsbury in 2015 at the age of 17, Lewis impressed with the U23s and was rewarded with his first team debut against Norwich City in the FA Cup on January 7, 2017. It was one of three appearances he made in the cup that season.

Daily Echo: Lewis on his debut in the FA Cup against Norwich. Image by: Stuart MartinLewis on his debut in the FA Cup against Norwich. Image by: Stuart Martin

Yet five years later as he departs for League Two those remain his only Saints games.

“It hasn't always been plain sailing,” he admits. “It's not easy when you train Monday to Friday, and there's nothing to look forward to at the end of it. The best you can do is just support whoever is playing and train hard. Keep your head down. And there's been a lot of that. But now I'm excited that there is something to aim for. And there is going to be something at the end of my training weeks, which is exactly what I want.”

This is what Lewis has pushed for and what he’s pushed by: excitement. Excitement to finally do what he has devoted so much of his life to. He’s done waiting.

“I could quite easily have stayed at Southampton. I had the opportunity to stay. But this year, in particular, was very tough for a number of reasons. And I decided that it was time for me to go out and prove my worth really. For myself, I feel like I owe it to myself to go and go and have a really good go and finally be given an opportunity to show people what I can do. 

“It wasn't easy. But you know, the manager picks the team and at the end of the day, that's his job. But that's fine. It's a good thing. Now I have something to prove. And I'm looking forward to being given the opportunity to prove that.”

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There’s no escaping that his time at Southampton hasn’t worked out in the way anyone was hoping. Lewis is the first one to admit that. 

“Of course, the goal was always to play for this club. I think it's a great club and I'll always hold it dear to my heart. But, unfortunately for a few different reasons it didn't materialise. And that's fine, you know, football, everyone's entitled to their opinion and in football things happen. But for me, I'm just looking forward to going out and enjoying football again. And showing people what I can do. 

“You can't come on for 10 minutes at the end of the game and have a good go of it like players in other positions. Only one of you can play and there's there's been some really good goalkeepers during my time at the club. And unfortunately, for me, I didn't get the nod. But I've been lucky enough to work with some fantastic keepers and I’ll be able to take that experience with me where I go next, which is good. 

“Obviously I haven't played in the Premier League but to be able to say I've played three times for Southampton is a great honour. 

Daily Echo: Lewis signs for Saints in 2015.Lewis signs for Saints in 2015.

“When a Premier League club comes knocking, that's very exciting. It was always my dream - and still is my dream - to be a Premier League goalkeeper and I still believe that I can get back to that level. But for me now, that all starts with playing well for Bradford City, and that's my aim for the short term at least.”

While Lewis could have extended his Southampton stay, the signs weren’t heading in a positive direction for his Saints creer. In December he was given a spot on the bench for the 1-1 draw with Brighton but even after Alex McCarthy was seriously injured, Saints opted to sign Willy Caballero instead of giving Lewis a chance. It was clear that the time to move on had arrived.

But just because he’s excited about his new journey doesn’t mean it’s been easy to say goodbye. Southampton has become his life and Staplewood his home. 

“I haven't played the games I would have wanted to here but I joined the club when I was 17 years old, coming from a small town. And I really grew up a lot here. So yeah, it's gonna be difficult saying goodbye to a lot of people. But it's the right thing for my career. 

“It's nice having some good news to tell people here. I've got a lot of good friends here. Playing staff and the staff at the club. It's nice to have some good news to tell them. A lot of people have been rooting for me in and around the building. So it's nice to have something to celebrate with them before I leave.

Daily Echo: Harry Lewis with Fraser Forster. Image by: Stuart MartinHarry Lewis with Fraser Forster. Image by: Stuart Martin

“I’ve been here for seven years and a lot of the staff have been at the club for a relatively long period of time as well. And they know it's not always been easy for me. I've obviously been through a few difficult periods at the club, but it's nice to be able to celebrate an exciting next step with those guys. 

“I obviously knew that my contract was coming to a bit of a head. And it's time for me to go out and start playing football and I had a few options. But once I heard that Bradford were interested, with the size of the club and the manager they’ve got in charge, it was a very attractive opportunity for me. And, and yeah, it all happened very quickly. I was delighted just to get it done nice and early as well, which is great. So, I have plenty of time to prepare and look forward to it. It's a great thing that's happened.”

Despite not achieving what he wanted on the football pitch, Lewis made sure to use his hunger and drive for something positive. As well as growing as both a player and person, Lewis has just finished his degree in Sports Psychology, something that he’s delighted to be done with - even if the focus did help during some darker periods.

“It's a big part of the game and I think it's a growing part of the game. There's a bit more awareness now that you know, you go to the gym to train muscle groups, but a lot of focus needs to be done on actually training your brain and stuff like that. So, yeah, it's been, it's been five years in the making, this degree. But I’m now finished which is great!

Daily Echo: Lewis unveiled as a Bradford player. Image by: PALewis unveiled as a Bradford player. Image by: PA

“It just gave me a focus. I didn't have a game on a Saturday to be excited about, to get going for. So having this as an exterior focus was nice to switch off when things weren't going so well with football, and I wasn't enjoying it so much.

"It's been nice to have this alongside to keep me going really a lot of the time. I'm happy in the feeling that I haven't wasted my time. And I still achieved a fair bit. 

“I've met some fantastic people, made some friends for life, grown a lot on and off the pitch, achieved a lot - not necessarily achieved what I wanted to on the football pitch but achieved a lot. I've just finished my degree. While I haven’t played a lot of football, I like to think I haven’t wasted much time.

"It's a period in my life that I will look back on with some regret, but I will look back on fondly and look back with good pleasure at some of the nice times I had with good people.”

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