FOR Saints legend Claus Lundekvam loyalty has always been important. The Norwegian defender spent 12 brilliant years at Southampton after joining the club from Brann in 1996.

Lundekvam made 400 appearances for Saints during that time, enough to make him one of the club's highest appearance makers.

In recent months, the term loyalty has developed a new meaning to Lundekvam. After a difficult spell following retirement, the 50 year old has now entered the world of business, founding a new company - Born Supporter.

Born Supporter offers personalised posters which serve as a reminder of how small your child was at birth.

Their lifesize outlines are accompanied by customisable data from your child's name, date of birth, weight, and, most importantly, the date they started to support your football club.

“Instead of buying a shirt for your newborn which they will grow out of, our product offers something which will last a lifetime,” Lundekvam’s business partner Odd Ivar Rønqvist points out.

“It’s all about getting your child into the right colours from birth,” Lundekvam adds. “But that doesn’t mean you can only buy the product if your child has just been born.

Daily Echo:

“As long as you input the data into the website, we will be able to generate a one-to-one scale poster. It’s very easy to do, but it’s very clever."

So far, Born Supporter have linked up for official partnerships with three English clubs, Chelsea, Fulham and, of course, Southampton.

Alongside developing Born Supporter, Lundekvam has travelled across Norway and beyond to warn young footballers about the darker side of the game.

It’s something he unfortunately knows all too well having battled with alcohol and drug addiction following the end of his career.

In a 2022 interview with the Daily Echo, Lundekvam described his mental health problems as ‘life and death’.

READ MORE: Saints legend Lundekvam and his 'life or death' fight with addiction

“It’s difficult to deal with the day you finished, especially when you were in the game as long as I was," he adds. "Everything changes overnight - you lose that togetherness.

"You are so used to going to a dressing room of friends for 20 years like I did. I thought I was well prepared, but I couldn’t have anticipated what hit me.

"I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy. To still be alive and able to give something back on that field is very meaningful.

“But I am also still very proud of my playing career and being very loyal to one club because that is very rare in the game today.”

Having gone through hell after his career, Lundekvam is hoping that clubs can better prepare their academy and first-team players for the potential hurdles they may face later in life.

“When I retired there was nothing. I think there should be something in place for players who retire.

"There’s a massive hole. You can imagine the adrenaline rush running out in front of thousands of fans. You aren’t going to get that back when you retire - it’s impossible.

“The longing for the adrenaline kick or belonging to a group of players is difficult. I got immensely depressed.

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"Setting up the business has helped get some of that rush back, but it can't match the feeling of playing in front of fans.

"During my career, I was the big strong Norwegian, so when I retired I struggled. I felt as though I couldn't show an emotional side. I kept things bottled up.

"Ironically, I had everything, but I made some wrong choices and ended up losing everything.

“To speak about it is meaningful. Clubs should take that part of the game more seriously - there is plenty of room for improvement there.

"When I travel around Norway, the clubs, academies and schools are very happy to hear the honesty behind the success story that they see on the surface."

For Lundekvam, helping people overcome their mental health battles extends beyond football. He spent six years working in the mental health sector in Norway, where he saw the problem treble amongst young people.

He is hopeful of working with the Saints Foundation, to help serve the community that cheered him on during his 12-year stint at Southampton.

“One of the things that everybody needs in life is something to wake up to - a sense of belonging.

“That’s the society we have entered, there are so many areas now that young people have to perform in, be that school, sport, social media or whatever. The pressure is immense around the world.

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"I love the club and would love to become an ambassador for what I've been through. Nothing would please me more."

Given his long and proud association with Southampton, the retired defender tries his best to keep up with the club, which he admits isn't easy to do in Norway.

However, with regular business dealings in the UK, as he aims to continue building Born Support, Lundekvam hopes to make more trips to St Mary's.

"I miss Southampton. Even though I've been gone for 15 years it always feels like coming home. We are planning to sign all the Premier League clubs, so hopefully, I will be around more often."

He was in attendance for Saints' 3-1 win over Birmingham and was impressed by what he saw from Russell Martin's side. Since then, Southampton have extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

"What I saw against Birmingham, was, on the whole, the best performance I've seen. They were a little bit shaky after they scored, but they were very solid apart from that.

"I applaud the football that Martin wants to play because that is the way forward. It's the future of football.

"You see Manchester City playing a similar way and they wash teams off the pitch. Now you can see the players building relationships with each other on the pitch. They are starting to gel.

"It takes time to build up the confidence to play that way. He is definitely the right man and there is more than enough talent in the squad to get promoted.

"I would be very disappointed if we are not in the top six come the end of the season. There was some naivety earlier this season, so I understand the critics, but I feel they are now on the right track."