Southampton will play Manchester United on Saturday and half an hour with Bazun is enough to understand why Ralph Hasenhutl was so confident he was mentally and technically fit for regular Premier League football after moving from Manchester City this summer for £15 million.
“I focus on playing off the field and on the psychological side of football just as much as I do on the field,” Bazunu explains. “Being strong in spirit and truly understanding how your brain and your mind works is just as important.
“One of the most important moments for me is reading. Psychology books – just to really understand and keep my brain active. I do a lot of research in the field of various psychological research. As a goalkeeper you go through a lot of ups and downs and so staying balanced I think is a great quality.”
So what has he been reading lately?
“I have read two books by Tim Grover called Relentless and Victory. They were really good. Also something from Malcolm Gladwell. Tim Grover is more motivating and Malcolm Gladwell is more psychology, but I’m trying to get the best of both so I can be as educated as possible.”
And what can be applied to performing in front of tens of thousands of fans in the stadium, as well as in front of millions behind the screen?
“On the field you have to always be in shape and have a very high concentration,” he says. “Emotions can sometimes get in the way and cloud your judgment. The main thing is to have a really focused mind and not to give in to emotions, atmosphere or conditions of the game.
“The most important thing is to listen to people you trust and who care about your interests: the staff is here, the goalkeeping coach, the manager. Anything beyond that is just an opinion.
“It [the reading] more came from my personal interests and to a large extent from my mother. We have really good conversations. Sometimes she tells me to take my time, enjoy the process, don’t get hung up on the end result.”
Parental influence is easily felt.
Bazunu’s father, Green, was a football fanatic and introduced six-year-old Gavin to the sport when he joined Shamrock Rovers. Bazunu soon trained for hours, whether on the streets of Dublin’s Fierhouse district, where he grew up, or in more organized training at Shamrock, where he was originally a prolific goalscorer. A teammate’s illness when he was “11 or 12” opened the doors for the first match between posts, and for four years he trained full-time for Shamrock with senior players in a program that combined full-time work. while studying at Ashfield College Dublin. His mom, Cara, has been a major driving force in ensuring that education remains a huge priority, to the point where he even earned a degree in sports science after moving to Manchester City in 2019.
While other academy scientists might have gone downtown for daytime shopping, Bazunu was still studying. “I worked out 20-25 hours a week in addition to training every day at Manchester City,” he says. “At times it was difficult to sit inside and watch the other guys leave, but I knew it would serve me well. It was definitely worth it.” He passed the Irish equivalent of an A-level (Leaving Certificate) and started a course at Manchester Metropolitan University before Covid hit.
He believes that exposure to men’s football from the age of 15 was critical to his development. “There will always be those who want to hug you, as well as those who want to do the opposite,” he says. “The team defended. Before I knew it, I was 16 years old and I was ready to step in and face the difficulties and challenges of being a professional footballer.”