Steve De Ridder

#141634255 /

Steve De Ridder is a Belgian winger who was born in Ghent, Belgium on 25th February 1987. De Ridder began his career with hometown club Gent, but failed to break through to the first team and made just one appearance. He spent two years on loan at Belgian second tier outfit VW Hamme between 2006 and 2008, scoring 17 goals in his second season.

In 2008 De Ridder moved to Holland to sign for Eredivisie side De Graafschap. He suffered relegation in his first season at the Doetinchem based club, but helped them bounce back at the first attempt, netting 17 goals in De Graafschap's promotion winning campaign. In 2010/11 De Ridder was named player of the season, after helping the 'Super Farmers' to a 14th place finish.

On 22nd July 2011 De Ridder signed for Southampton for a significant undisclosed fee on a three year deal. He made his debut on 27th July in a friendly against West Brom, coming on for the injured Alex Chamberlain. De Ridder made a fantastic first impression, tormenting West Brom's defence with his pace and skill. He made his competitive debut on 6th August 2011, when he replaced David Connolly as a second half substitute. Three days later he made his first start in a League Cup tie against Torquay, scoring the opener in a 4-1 win.

De Ridder played the role of impact player for much of 2011/12, tormenting defenders in the closing stages. He was very effective in this role, especially when Saints were chasing games. De Ridder soon became a cult hero with fans, who would chant "Steeeevvee" at his every touch. The Belgian started against Watford on 1st October after netting at Cardiff a few days earlier. He wasn't anywhere near as influential playing from the beginning however. De Ridder scored a vital equaliser at Reading on 22nd October. His defensive work did improve over Christmas and New Year when he received more opportunities. De Ridder dropped out of sight in early 2012, as the likes of Richard Chaplow and Jason Puncheon returned to the side. He received a rare opportunity on 6th March 2012, and put himself back into contention immediately, by setting up Rickie Lambert for a goal in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich. De Ridder featured in most of the remaining matches, to mixed results. Against Portsmouth and Reading in April it was clear his tactical discipline still wasn't at the level it should be. De Ridder caused Saints to lose a certain degree of shape by not holding his position.

De Ridder slipped down the pecking order following Saints' promotion to the Premier League in 2012. He set up a goal in a League Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday in September 2012, but looked awful in the following round against Leeds. He made a couple of substitute appearances over the Christmas and New Year period. De Ridder looked ok in patches, but never seriously looked like forcing his way back into first team reckoning. He joined Bolton on loan on January 31st, but played just 3 times. He was said to be unsuited to the type of system Dougie Freedman wanted to play. De Ridder returned to Saints towards the end of 2012/13 and appeared on the bench a couple of times.