JAY Rodriguez is desperate to get the nod to start against old club Burnley for Southampton, although he admits it will feel strange.
The FA Cup third round has thrown up a reunion between the Clarets and the striker for the first time since his switch to the Premier League side in the summer of 2012.
“I’m excited and really looking forward to the game,” said Rodriguez. “It should be a good occasion.”
Family and friends are travelling down to the south coast to see Rodriguez run out against his beloved Burnley, although he was in the dark about manager Mauricio Pochettino’s selection plans.
The Argentine is expected to rest a number of first team regulars against Championship opposition.
But Rodriguez hopes he is not one of them.
He said: “None of us really know what the plan is but hopefully I am playing.
“It will be a good game to be involved in.
“But it will be strange playing against old team-mates and playing in front of Burnley fans.
“My mum and dad were down for the weekend when the draw was made and we’d been wondering if we’d get Burnley. I couldn’t believe it when it came out.”
While Rodriguez moved hundreds of miles away from his East Lancashire home following his record £7million move more than 18 months ago, he has still kept a close eye on his boyhood team and is delighted to see them in a position to push for promotion in the second half of the season.
“It’s always important to keep rooted to where it all started, where you are brought up and the people that you know.
“I always check on the results and any time I can get back up I do.
“They are doing well and deserve to be up where they are at the moment,” said Rodriguez, who is expecting a “houseful” of relatives and friends this weekend.
It is not just the new England international who is relishing the reunion, though.
Jack Cork, who enjoyed two loan spells at Turf Moor from Chelsea, and Danny Fox, who joined the club from Celtic for their Premier League season, are also hoping to be involved against the Clarets.
“We talked about it when the draw was made and they are both looking forward to the game as well,” said Rodriguez.
“We know how tough a game it’s going to be.
“Anything can happen in cup competitions and it’s a test for us. It should be a good game.”
But while Rodriguez is determined to play his part in Southampton progressing in the competition, he admits he will not celebrate if he scores.
“I’ve got to show my respect to Burnley because they helped me progress as a player,” said the 24-year-old, who has nine Premier League goals this season - five in his last eight games.
“Obviously you’re happy to do your job for the team that you’re playing for and one you’re working for – you’ve got to be professional that way.
“Every game I want to play in and want to improve and try to get as many goals as I can and as much experience as I can.
“But you don’t want to be disrespectful and I won’t be celebrating, certainly not in a way that’s over the top.”