STUART ARMSTRONG is Saints’ very own snitch on the pitch!
The Scot, along with fellow ‘policeman’ James Ward-Prowse, is responsible for calling out any rule-breaking by his Southampton team-mates.
Perceived offences are taken for consideration to ‘judge’ Jack Stephens, who even owns a gown, wig and sentencing hammer.
Midfielder Armstrong, who has a law degree, told SunSport: “I would say ‘snitching’ is an unfair description. People will come to me privately and whisper something into my ear about a wrongdoing, as if they want me to act on it.
“Then, of course, I’ll delegate it to James. He’s a monster in the middle of the park so people fear him on and off the pitch!
“The fines are a bit of fun until somebody has to pay it.
“If you’re unhappy with the fine or the legitimacy of it, you can fight your case. There is freedom of speech in the court. But you have to stand up and present your case.
“Jack Stephens administers the punishment — he’s got the full outfit!
“You run the risk of doubling your fine if you lose and I’m yet to see somebody win, so it’s a dangerous approach.
“Coincidentally, Prowsey and I have not had any fines!”
Offences range from being late, to leaving kit or equipment out on the pitch, to using phones in the first-team canteen, to a player failing to bring a cake in on their birthday.
The courtroom is a very familiar environment for midfielder Ward-Prowse, whose dad is a barrister.
And Armstrong studied law through the Open University in his spare time earlier in his career — though he is unlikely to pursue the vocation after hanging up his boots.
The ex-Celtic star, who turns 28 next month, added: “This is probably the time when you start thinking about what to do after you retire.
“I feel old. In the football world, 27 is old. I remember seeing players when they were 28 and thinking, ‘F***ing hell, he’s finished’.
“When I was younger, I’d come back after training and felt like a lot of time was being wasted. That’s when I started the degree.
“It seems to give me some sort of respect in the dressing room — they’re none the wiser!”
I’M GLAD I DIDN’T HIT THE PANIC BUTTON!
STUART ARMSTRONG was worried last time Saints played Burnley. Very worried indeed.
The Scot had been left out of Southampton’s squad altogether for their opening day trip to Turf Moor.
His pre-season was disrupted by an injury on international duty but this was still a hammer blow that left him wondering about his future.
Yet Armstrong’s refusal to panic has been rewarded, with the midfielder now considered a first-team regular going into today’s home clash with the Clarets.
That patience has mirrored the club’s own courage under fire this season as they did not cave to calls for Ralph Hasenhuttl to be sacked after the 9-0 humiliation to Leicester and are now as high as 13th.
Armstrong, 27, admitted: “It was not the most ideal situation. You want to be in the squad.
“It does make you think but sometimes a knee-jerk reaction in football is the wrong decision.
“You can be impatient, you want to move and play football. But sometimes biding your time is best.
“Football moves quickly. There could be an injury, a change of shape or a defeat where you then get an opportunity in the next game.
“When you do come across moments like that, when you’re out of the squad against Burnley for the first game of the season, I wouldn’t press the panic button.
“But I would then question ‘Why am I in this position and how do I get out of it?’.”
Battling back after being discarded is something Armstrong has had to do at several points in his career.
At 13, he was rejected by both Ipswich and Aberdeen after trials, while he was forced to quit hometown club Inverness as a teen when it scrapped its youth team after relegation, before joining Dundee United.
Armstrong was also left out of the 18 for Brendan Rodgers’ first game in charge at Celtic, joking “I must be s***” when recalling the snub.
The midfielder would go on to win a double treble under Rodgers with the Bhoys which led to a £7million switch to St Mary’s in 2018.
One thing is for sure though, even if his career took a nosedive from here, Armstrong will never be affected by any criticism on social media — because he does not use it.
He explained: “I’m not a huge fan of being on social media. In the past I’ve been on it. You read things and then begin to dwell on it. You think ‘Why’s somebody saying that?’.
“Then you realise it’s an eight-year-old who has just finished maths and I probably shouldn’t be too concerned!
“People are entitled to their opinions but, ultimately, if there are 100 people, a lot of them are not going to like you.
“I don’t understand why you would expose yourself to that kind of opinion and, quite frankly, I don’t think you need it.”
As for people whose opinions do matter, Armstrong has had to win over Saints chief Hasenhuttl, just as he did Rodgers.
That has meant adjusting to the Austrian’s pressing style and to playing wide right — neither of which come naturally.
Yet the 18-cap Scotland star has managed it, playing a big role in the turnaround post that drubbing by the Foxes back in October.
Armstrong scored in their revenge 2-1 win at the King Power last month as well as the 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace.
And he will come back into the fold today after recovering from a hip problem. Saints are out for more retribution having lost 3-0 against Burnley in their August opener.
And 17-goal talisman Danny Ings will be looking to do the business again, having failed to net in his last three league games.
The England hopeful, who played for the Clarets for four years before joining Liverpool in 2015, runs a self-funded foundation for disabled kids in Burnley — the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project.
Armstrong loves playing with the Winchester lad, who is almost as charitable on the pitch as he is off it.
He said: “Danny is more than just scoring goals, he’s a great link-up player. He has an understanding of where you are and where he is, which is a good quality for a striker.
“You get the sense he is local. He’s from round here, knows a lot of people and knows the club and set-up.
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“He probably does feel that bit of expectation being the No 9 but this season he’s been in great shape.
“Away from the pitch, he loves his dogs and spends a lot of time with them. Too much time, actually.
“He’s not bad at guitar either, although Shane Long is better.”
Saints and Armstrong certainly seem to be in tune now after hitting some bum notes earlier this season.
SOUTHAMPTON (likely): McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Redmond, Ings, Long.
BURNLEY (likely): Pope, Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor; Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Rodriguez, Wood.