FORMER Saints captain James Ward-Prowse has opened up on his exit from the club last summer, labelling it a "heart-break".

The 29 year old signed for West Ham in a deal worth £30million following Southampton's relegation to the Championship.

Ward-Prowse - an 11-time England international - made 410 appearances for Saints, scoring 55 goals and registering 52 assists.

However, Ward-Prowse has now opened up on his final few weeks at Saints before the Hammers made their move in August 2023.

Speaking to Fozcast, Ward-Prowse said: "It was tough, I joined Southampton as an eight-year-old and it's a fantastic club.

James Ward-Prowse waved supporters goodbye at the end of the 2022/23 seasonJames Ward-Prowse waved supporters goodbye at the end of the 2022/23 season (Image: PA)

"It's the club that gave me the opportunity not only as a player but as a person to grow and develop.

"It gave me the opportunity that every young boy wants to reach the Premier League and become a footballer.

"It was disappointing the way it ended. You never know in your career if you will be at one club all your life. 

"I had a really big chunk of my career there but it was disappointing to end the way it did, to be relegated.

"Having been watching from afar this year it has been great to see them doing so well, it was incredibly tough to leave."

Supporters hoped Ward-Prowse would serve one more year with the club in an attempt to help them straight back up.

The midfielder was looking to break back into Gareth Southgate's England plans after being cut from the EURO 2020 preliminary squad. 

He admitted: "You have the people that will speak about loyalty and you're trying to balance that up with maximising your career.

James Ward-Prowse's last England appearance came in November 2022James Ward-Prowse's last England appearance came in June 2022 (Image: PA)

"Not being in the England squad at the time was a big factor as I knew there was a European Championship at the end of the season.

"I had to maximise my career and I knew I gave myself a better opportunity if I was playing regularly in the Premier League.

"Playing in Europe again was a big factor in pushing myself. I want to look back at my career and know I gave everything to achieve the most.

"It was a real heart-break, I owe everything to Southampton - it's a fantastic club and continues to be so."

Ward-Prowse led Saints out for the first match of the Championship season before a deal to take him elsewhere materialised.

Saints beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 at Hillsborough, with Ward-Prowse setting up the winner scored by Che Adams.

Ward-Prowse said: "It was a really difficult time.

"We knew the squad would look different going into the season and there was a lot of uncertainty around a lot of players.

"I pride myself on my professionalism and a big thing for me was remaining as professional as I could be for the group.

"Whether I was there or not, I wanted to help the manager prepare the team as best as I could and I wanted to give everything I could.

"I have come away from the situation with my head held high and I gave everything in my 20 years there, so hopefully people remember that."