There were 10 extraordinary days at the end of last season that changed Nathan Redmond and which he will forever cherish.
This “period in my life that I will always remember” began and ended with recognition of his increasingly consistent on-field potency.
Redmond was voted player of the season by the fans and by team-mates at Southampton before being unexpectedly called up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Nations League tournament .
It was, though, the four days in between, which were spent visiting vulnerable and impoverished children in Ghana, that proved utterly life-affirming. “Truly humbling and something I will never forget,” he says. “It put a lot of things into perspective. There were times after visiting workshops when I would just be silent. Times when I would be absolutely buzzing at some of the stuff I had seen.
“I got back home late afterwards, woke up after 12 hours’ sleep and found out I was in the England squad. It was a reflective day for me, especially after the four days in Ghana. There are not many moments in your life that will shock you, but also bring a bit of clarity.”
Redmond then pauses before recounting experiences that could take you from despair at some of the living conditions and personal tragedies to absolute awe and wonderment for the human spirit. Inspiration was clearly mutual.
“I spoke to locals, teachers and volunteers in different villages and towns. There were stories I could never repeat but that will probably stick with me for a lifetime.
“It was stuff you don’t understand until you go there. Like some of the facilities in which the kids go to school. Girls as young as 13 taking younger siblings to school, going to school themselves, picking them up and then cooking and cleaning. Some kids don’t have parents. Some are in a situation where they had one school uniform for the whole year.”
Redmond was in Ghana with Right to Play, a charity he chose to work with after taking time to meet it and understand how it used sport to help communities. “It was the one that touched me the most in terms of what they were trying to achieve,” he says. “I wanted to go out there. I think if you really throw yourself into something, you will reap rewards that are not materialistic but which will probably help change your perspective on your life, work or family life.
“You also don’t understand how much impact the Premier League has until you are walking through some of the villages and somebody spots you. Football is an international language – you put a ball in the middle of a school and everyone is running towards it. A smile was infectious.
“There was a lot that made me smile and a lot that made me think. You have to be eternally grateful for the opportunities and what you have. The basic things: waking up every day with heating, clean water, food in the fridge and a bed to sleep in.
“There are a lot of experiences in my life that have made me realise that football is not everything, but it is something that I have always loved and wanted to do.
By Jeremy Wilson, CHIEF SPORTS REPORTER
Credit: Telegraph Football/@TeleFootball