Southampton loanee Steven Caulker knows he may have to wait for his chance to impress as the club pushes for UEFA Europa League qualification.
QPR defender Caulker was signed after Southampton centre-back Florin Gardos was sidelined for a year with a knee injury, leaving manager Ronald Koeman with only two players to cover the heart of his defence.
But as Koeman prepares his squad for the second leg of the Europa League third-round qualifier at Vitesse, Caulker is by no means guaranteed to feature the GelreDome.
After watching the 3-0 first-leg victory against Vitesse from the stands, Caulker played alongside Jose Fonte in the first half and Maya Yoshida in the second during Southampton’s 1-1 friendly draw with Espanyol, and he admitted that he needs to adapt to his new teammates’ style of play.
“It’s a very different style to how I’ve played the last two years but I’m capable of it,” he said. “I played like that at Swansea, so it’s just about getting the message from the gaffer and delivering it out on the pitch.
“There’s no-one greater to learn from [than Koeman].”
Southampton face Newcastle in the Premier League three days after they return from the Netherlands, and Caulker is ready to make his bow should he be called upon in either competition.
“I’m ready to play, but I’ll be patient,” he said. “We have two good, fit centre-halves here, so I’ll wait my turn. There are some young lads coming through as well, so there’s plenty of competition for places and if I am selected then I’m ready to go.”
Koeman will assess the fitness of striker Jay Rodriguez ahead of the return leg against his former club, although fans who watched him mark his first home appearance in 16 months with a sweetly struck goal against Espanyol will be keen for him to feature in Arnhem.
Koeman told Southampton’s official YouTube channel: “It was Jay’s first start for a long time in St Mary’s. You can see at certain moments he’s not what he was, but that’s normal after a long time.
“He needs minutes and time to come back to that level. He still showed his quality, he scored a great goal and that will give him the confidence he needs.”
Apart from Gardos, Koeman’s only injury concern is midfielder Jordy Clasie, who pulled a hamstring in the first leg but is expected to recover in time for the trip to Newcastle.
Vitesse coach Peter Bosz may have Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke at his disposal, after the 17-year-old completed his loan move to join four of his Stamford Bridge team-mates at the Eredivisie club.