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Southampton Youngsters Chomping At The Bit
Monday, 8th Nov 2021 09:42

Last season by necessity Saints had to play youngsters in the starting XI and often had a bench filled up with youth team players to make up the numbers, this season with some good incoming transfers chances for some of the youngsters have not been so plentiful, but there are 4 or 5 knocking at the first team door.

A year ago Southampton FC topped the Premier League , the problem though was that we had a good team but not a big squad, that came home to roost in the second half of the season when a spate of injuries and suspensions hit home and reduced the side to basically those who could just about walk let alone run.

That was the case on that infamous evening at Old Trafford, the result looks horrible on paper but it does not tell the full story, that of a side ravaged by injury with two youngsters in the starting line up with only a handful of minutes in the Premier League to their name and a bench that aside from the two goalkeepers (Yes two we were that short on numbers) Nathan Redmond was the only experienced player the rest were just kids.

Fate conspired that night to throw everything at us that it could, a sending off after only a minute, then poor refereeing and VAR decisions that ultimately turned the game from just a rout into a debacle.

But this led the manager and club to revamp it's thinking, Ralph Hasenhuttl has previously preferred to work with a small squad, indeed that suited a club who were top heavy on wages for players not contributing to the side and could not afford more.

However that had to change and did, in the summer Saints went out used the money from the sale of Danny Ings wisely, not only in signing experience, but in recruiting youth as well.

Now we have a bigger squad that has a more balanced look about it, we have at least two players for every position as Ralph stated was the new aim and also we have some good youngsters chomping at the bit and more to the point there is a good chance some of them will have a long career in the Premier League.

For most Premier League teams success is getting an a youngster through the ranks to become a first team regular around once every 3 years, these days players are bought in, Saints have usually beaten that figure.

Now we have two types of youngster waiting in the wings, the first is those that we have effectively grown ourselves and the second is those we have brought in, that group is led by Tino Livramento, Saints have pioneered looking not at youngsters at 16 or for that matter those at 21 at Premier League clubs but nowhere near the first team, but looking in the middle of that age, the 19 year olds who are more than good enough to play in the Premier League, but are not getting chances to do so because their club prefers the big name signings, this is a niche market of perhaps 4 or 5 clubs but this summer we have used it well.

Aside from Tino and Armando Broja on loan we also have Dynel Simeu & Thierry Small signed from Chelsea & Everton respectively who are in the B team at the moment but likely to play some part in the first team sooner than later.

These two did not swap Chelsea or Everton's B team for ours lightly, they are players who have excelled at their clubs but saw their paths blocked, Everton rated Small so highly they had already given him his first team debut, but he knew he would not get in the Everton first team soon.

The club are giving them a clear route to first team football, the first part of that means starring in the B team something they are already doing and next comes the second part and that means giving them the opportunity.

But it is not just the youngsters signed from other clubs that are chomping at the bit, Saints also have some home grown players looking to come into the side.

Will Smallbone is on that list, a year ago he was making a breakthrough but his journey has been stopped by firstly a bad knee injury and then cancer, now he is knocking on the first team door again and played in the League cup game at Chelsea.

Nathan Tella is a talent and the supporters sense it, Ralph has three preferred wide options now in Stuart Armstrong, Nathan Redmond and Moi Elyounoussi and then two who have not really produced it consistently this season in Theo Walcott & Moussa Djenepo, both will contribute this season, but they are possibly not the future and Tella could well be.

He has the right attitude and I feel Ralph is looking for the right moment to unleash him, he wants a game where we are more than a goal ahead and we can afford to throw a little caution to the wind and when that comes I expect Tella to be let off the leash.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has spoken of the players hunger and desire to show his worth with a story about how the player asked to play for the B team only 24 hours after being an unused sub in the win at Watford.

Hasenhuttl told HampshireLive: “Nathan [Tella] asked us to play which I found great, and he did a good job there. It also shows the character of this guy and this lad wasn’t playing fantastic.

“I am not the kind of manager who will force my players to play [for the Under-23s] but I am a manager who really likes to see players coming to me and asking me to play."

That shows the attitude that we now have in our youngsters unlike Alex Jankewitz the villain of the aforementioned defeat at Manchester United who was sent off after 90 seconds, he left the club in the summer demanding first team football, he went to Young Boys in Switzerland, but has fared little better in getting first team football, although he made the bench on a few occasions 2 sub appearances totalling 28 minutes is all he has managed in the Swiss Super league.

But even after those who have made a breakthrough of sorts and been transferred in we still have some promising youngsters who could make it at St Mary's, Caleb Watts is perhaps top of that list. Last season he made 3 Premier League appearances all off the bench and he didn't look out of place, he recently played in Australia's team for the Olympics and still only 19 could break through in the next couple of years.

To a lesser extent the 18 year old Kgagelo Chauke could also have a future at the club.

I have not even mentioned Yan Valery who I still feel has what it takes to make it at this level, 3 years ago he looked to have the World at his feet, his performances back then were almost on a par with Tino Livramento's now, he is being played in the centre of defence in the B team, he could yet have a long career in the Premier League.

At the moment the larger Saints squad is blocking their way a little, but the fact remains that we have aside from Tino Livramento who is now a first choice players we still have 6 youngsters on the fringes of the first team and that has to be good.

It will mean that next summer if things go to plan then we might have to trim the squad a little and cut away some of those who aren't really producing it.

In the centre of defence if Dynel Simeu continues with his progress and Salisu, Jan Bednarek and Lyanco keep up their form then if Symeu steps into the squad that Jack Stephens will be 5th choice, at his age that will be no good, I like Jack Stephens, he is a good squad player, he will give you a burst of games where he does a job, but he is not a 38 game a season man, all of those 4 players are.

At right back Romain Perraud could be a brief resident of Southampton, he has done nothing wrong, if Tino Livramento had not been such a success then he could well have played every game this season, but the truth is Kyle Walker Peters is better at left back than him and with Thierry Small coming through I think he will find game time limited.

I think Theo Walcott and Moussa Djenepo will need to up their games or they will find themselves surplus to requirements, Moi Elyounoussi as well perhaps, he has played well this season, but he is yet to take the game by the scruff of the neck, he has the ability to do so and he is being given every chance, he has been a solid 7 out of 10 in every game, but at best an 8.

All in all though exciting times, slowly but surely and under the radar Ralph Hasenhuttl has built up a decent squad, maybe not one just yet that can challenge for the top 6, but one that could push it's way into the top 10, indeed we are that close that if we had of drawn with Wolves instead of lost, who sit in 8th place this morning, perhaps our most disappointing result this season who sit in 8th place this morning, then we would be 11th and only 2 points off Manchester United on 6th, I know that is if's and buts but the fact still remains we are only 3 points behind 6th and that is a good solid start to the season.

The future is looking bright again, the season has started in the way I predicted, a tough 8 games followed by games that we could get points out of and we have done just that.

Photo: Action Images

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Centurion added 10:00 - Nov 8
I have a feeling that Theo Walcott will become part of the coaching staff next season. May play occasionally if there is a =n injury crisis, or possibly cup games.

SaintNick added 10:42 - Nov 8
Not really seen him as a coach what makes you say that

underweststand added 11:28 - Nov 8
The success our former Academy players had relied a lot on the support they had from the others around them. Walcott, Bale, Oxlade Chamberlain and Luke Shaw all showed up well in Saints' sides when playing alongside seasoned pros. (with the later likes of Jaidi, Fonte and Co.) but their eventual moves to " big clubs " were far from seamless when they joined "big teams" and were expected to loko out for themselves.
We might also include names like Schneiderlin, Lallana (and even JWP) who gradually played themselves into the squad and got a regular place place over a longer time.

Hopefully players like; Tella, Smallbone and Livramento will become regular first-teamers in a season or two, when our present "seniors" are nearing 30 and looking to be replaced by eager younger talents.

SaintPaulVW added 11:33 - Nov 8
Think we are inevitably going to have to sell a few to make a bit of room. Having great players in the squad allows this to happen. However it can generate an outcry about being a selling club. Not sure there is any option tho. Tino left Chelsea because he had no game time, we could face a similar issue if good up and coming talent has no place to go within the club. Good problem to have tho!

Saidou added 12:28 - Nov 8
Nick, I thought you were a bit harsh on JStephens. He was our best CD before his injury, got a lot of praise from fans and Ralph. And we all liked how he used to get on opposing players' faces when necessary like he did with Bruno F and a certain Man City player. Sth was different about him and even Ralph talked about it.

We were all worried when he got injured but others have stepped in and done well to the extend that he is almost now forgotton.

If he gets back to fighting for his place, i think DSimeu would be the most likely to leave on loan( bizzarely) next summer. SLong and Theo may leave too imo.

lemmsy added 12:56 - Nov 8
Are you sure about will small one & cancer ?
Haven’t seen it anywhere

pwithers123 added 12:58 - Nov 8
Good article - Good News - Big change from last few years.


SaintNick added 13:26 - Nov 8
I was told he had to have some treatment as evidenced by his hair loss, maybe it isn't public knowledge at the moment I hope someone hasn't given me dodgy information

KriSaint added 00:33 - Nov 11
I can understand why people think "chemotherapy"? when they look at Smallbones hair, which used to look like world class hair for at young man - or for a man at any age for that matter.
Without having a clue I doubt that his hair loss is due to cancer treatment, because I don't think he would be able to physically cope with elite football during cancer treatment or shortly after. My best guess is that the cause is an "auto-immune hair loss condition" - for example Alopecia Areata which is a 'spectrum disease' hitting some harder than others.
I pray, of course, that it's not cancer and chemo <3

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