“I WOULDN’T say I’m a prankster because we don’t really play pranks on each other, but I would just say I make people laugh. That’s what I do.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a class clown…yeah, I am actually. I just enjoy seeing people happy and want the boys to be happy.”

If someone was to say Michael Obafemi is a larger than life character, they wouldn’t be doing him justice.

Everything seems to be 100mph with the enigmatic striker: his pace on the pitch; a Republic of Ireland debut; a Premier League goal aged just 18; and the way he speeds through this interview.

And accompanying all the above is his infectious smile.

However, behind that pearly white grin is the underlying pressure of trying to establish himself in the Saints line-up.

Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has previously criticised Obafemi for his “lack of professionalism” on more than one occasion after a succession of hamstring injuries kept him sidelined.

When asked by the Daily Echo how he copes with the mental demands of playing in the Premier League, Obafemi said: “There are a lot of pressures that come with it and a lot of sacrifices that have to be made.

“I had to move away from home, so not seeing my friends and family is a big factor.

“But I’m aware of the sacrifices that have to be made and it’s the profession that I chose because I love it.”

Moving away from home can often be overlooked but it’s bound to be a difficult time for both player and parent.

Although he no longer lives in London with his mum, it hasn’t stopped her calling him every day just to check if he’s alright.

“I don’t know what people say but it’s definitely difficult moving away from home, especially when you are so close to your family – my mum calls me every day!

“But it’s what you’ve got to do if you want to make it as a professional footballer.”

Saints’ players have been advised to train at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although this interview was conducted before that measure was put in place, Obafemi revealed to the Daily Echo what he gets up to indoors during his spare time.

Playing Xbox, he says, allows him to switch off from the demands of being a professional footballer.

This interest is bound to come in handy now he’s got plenty of spare time – once he’s completed his training plan for the day, of course.

“I just play Xbox to be honest and try to relax that way. I don’t really do much else.”

When Hasenhuttl made the comments about Obafemi lacking professionalism, it could have gone one of two ways for the youngster.

In the past, it wouldn’t be uncommon for players to down tools if they were called out by their manager in public.

Or, depending on their character, the footballer would respond and prove their boss wrong.

But Hasenhuttl didn’t just make his remarks once, he said it twice.

That indicates Obafemi didn’t listen the first time and Saints’ manager wanted to hammer the message home.

The 19-year-old knows he isn’t the complete professional but makes it clear it’s something he’s striving for.

“Being professional is something has to be done,” he added. “I know I’m still young and that I have to get that right if I want to stay here.

“As well as that, the injuries that I’ve had in the past have been a learning curve for me because it was a difficult time.

“But now I’m fit and healthy and am always raring to go.”

One of the reasons behind Hasenhuttl’s comments were to do with how Obafemi looked after his body, which has been previously described by the Austrian as a “Formula One car”.

When the striker bagged his maiden Premier League goal against Huddersfield back in December 2018, he was then ruled out of action with a hamstring injury.

Obafemi had to wait until February 2019 to make his return, coming on as a second-half substitute at the Emirates Stadium.

But the speedy attacker lasted just a matter of minutes before hobbling back down the tunnel clutching the back of his leg.

He’d suffered another hamstring injury and was facing another lengthy spell out of the team.

Reflecting on those tough months, Obafemi said: “It was definitely a difficult time because I was just buzzing to score my first Premier League goal.

“I wanted to do all I could to help the team at that point so to get injured at that time was really unfortunate.

“A lot of things go through your mind and you start wondering whether you’ll need surgery and stuff like that.

“The medical staff helped me get back fit.”

One of the players helping guide Obafemi through the first stages of a career in the Premier League is Saints and Ireland teammate Shane Long.

Long, 33, and Danny Ings, 27, are both experienced professionals and know what it takes to carve out a successful career.

Because of this, Obafemi admits to paying close attention to the duo in training.

 But he also reveals their advice extends beyond the Staplewood turf and that he is grateful they give him the time.

“Just being in and around the squad I can learn a lot from them in the finishing drills and just watching their movements and stuff like that," the 19-year-old explained.

“I’m glad to be here and glad I am able to watch them.

“All the boys chip in and give me advice and I’m thankful to all of them.”