In his short tenure in charge at St Mary’s, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has already shown he is more than happy to give academy products their chance in the first team.
Hasenhuttl joined the Saints in December following a very successful spell in charge of RB Leipzig in Germany and guided the club to safety, playing some very eye-catching football in the process.
The Austrian handed four academy products their first team debut in the second half of last season while also integrating the likes of Yan Valery and Irish striker Michael Obafemi into the starting XI.
Obafemi had impressed in his six appearances for the Southampton first team, becoming their youngest scorer in Premier League history thanks to his goal against Huddersfield, however his campaign was derailed by two hamstring injuries.
The 19-year is back fit and has been heavily involved in the Saints’ pre-season with Hasenhuttl’s recent comments on using even more young players ahead of this season likely to be a strong indication that Obafemi will be getting his opportunity once again.
In quotes reported by the Southern Daily Echo, Hasenhuttl said;
“All the young players I trust in them and they can help us as a substitute for sure but suddenly you never know, there comes a chance to play and they have to. I am not afraid about that.”
It’s also good news for another Irish prospect, Will Smallbone, a 19-year old attacking midfielder who has been given his fair share of game time during this pre-season.
Smallbone has featured five times for Ireland’s U19s and was one of the standout players in the Premier League 2 last season, scoring five times and grabbing four assists as he was nominated for the player of the season.
Hasenhuttl singled out Smallbone for praise and outlined that the midfielder’s open-mindedness and ability to learn has impressed him.
“Will Smallbone is also a guy I like seeing playing because he has a very good view in the front and is open minded and learned very quick.
“In the beginning it was difficult and he had problems against the ball where he had to run and attack but it’s amazing how quick the guys are learning.”
Judging by Hasenhuttl’s comments it’s looking increasing likely that the pair will have a big part to play ahead of the Premier League season.