“I WAS told it was only going to be 10 or 15 minutes…”

As it turns out, Gavin Bazunu’s goalkeeping journey was only meant to be a temporary measure, while he was playing in the youth setup at Shamrock Rovers.

Fast forward around eight years, the 20-year-old could be about to make his Premier League debut between the sticks for new club Saints on Saturday.

Bazunu revealed to the Daily Echo how he had played “every position except from in goal” as a youngster, before an extenuating set of circumstances meant he donned the gloves for the first time.

The Dubliner explained: “I think up until the age of 10 or 11, I played every position except from in goal, to be honest!

“I played absolutely everywhere and it was only at 12 or 13 where I finally ended up in goal.

“It was actually in just a game where I was younger, where one of the keepers was sick. He wasn’t able to turn up for the game and I was the unlucky one that was put into goal.

“I think I was told ‘it’s only going to be 10 or 15 minutes’. I made a few saves and I was kept in and I wasn’t very happy about it!

“But as the weeks went on, I started to improve. When you do better in goal than you are outfield you start to enjoy it a bit more.”

Bazunu’s rapid progress meant he started training with the first team at Rovers, just after he turned 15 years of age.

As he admits, being placed in intense sessions against seasoned professionals had its tough times but, mentally, it made him much stronger.

“That was probably my most important journey of my career so far,” said the stopper, who has now featured 10 times for Ireland at senior level.

“Being involved in a professional environment from that age and being around men’s football. Travelling to away games, being in the changing rooms and seeing that experience from the lads around me was really special and it’s really stood to me.

“I mean, it broke you down at times and made you learn to stand back up stronger because you are there at 15.

“You are afraid to talk to some of the players in their mid-30s – they’ve played hundreds of games in the League of Ireland and you are only a 15-year-old lad who is still at school.

“You are trying to do your best and it’s not going well on most days but as it goes on for a bit longer – I was probably training with them for about a year – as I was there, I was improving day upon day and growing in confidence, learning so much.”

Spotted by Manchester City after playing in the first team for Shamrock, in both the League of Ireland and Europa League, Bazunu made the move to head to England in February 2019.

Following loans at Rochdale and Portsmouth, Saints snapped up the youngster for a reported £12million this summer.

He has already impressed with a sublime reaction save against RB Leipzig in pre-season, and could be handed his English top-flight debut when Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men head to Tottenham on Saturday (3pm).

“It’s all been good. It’s been a really, seamless transition coming in. A really good group of lads and the staff have all been welcoming,” said Bazunu, who has played 78 senior fixtures in the past two seasons.

“Being involved in the games has helped me really settle. It was a really good pre-season tour in Austria. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.

“I am really excited. Every day we are working towards being prepared for the first game as a group. I’m looking forward to getting started.

“My goal is always to find the players I feel I can learn the most from and try to get close to them because they are going to be the real source of information.

“If you can pick a little bit from all the players and try to take the best bits and learn from them, you are only going to round yourself as a player.”

Bazunu’s mum Cara reportedly still has the ticket from his first Shamrock Rovers game as a memento. His brother Todd is in the Irish club’s youth setup.

Asked what it would mean to his family for him to make his Premier League debut, Bazunu replied: “They are massively proud.

“My mum, my dad, my brother. They are all big football fans. The Premier League one, if it comes about, would be massive.”

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