Republic of Ireland underage international was in the thick of the action for Southampton as he set up striker Danny Ings for a sensational finish against Watford.
Smallbone was handed his first Saints start since the restart and his sixth appearance in total this season for Ralph Hassenhutl’s men against strugglers Watford at Vicarage Road.
The 20-year-old had featured predominantly in a deeper role but was deployed in behind Southampton’s front two of Ings and Shane Long.
Smallbone had a couple of nice early touches before he was involved in the opening goal of the game, finding space in between the Watford midfield and defence before feeding Ings.
The striker took three touches before brilliantly firing the ball low past the helpless Ben Foster in the Watford net to give his side a first-half lead.
🎙️ “Well that is as good as it gets, that is so clinical!"
Danny Ings brings up his 20th goal of the season to put #SaintsFC in front!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) June 28, 2020
Smallbone will be hoping that his introduction to the Southampton first team this season can also see him involved in Stephen Kenny’s plans for the Ireland squad later this year.
The 20-year-old was born in Basingstoke in England but qualifies to play for Ireland through his mother, and has featured five times for Ireland’s U19s scoring twice.
He has yet to win a cap with Ireland’s Under-21s, however, becoming a Premier League regular will likely mean that he is already on the radar of the Irish senior setup.
Smallbone is also very highly rated at Southampton and was recently awarded a four-year contract by the club following his first-team breakthrough.
“Will is a young man who is part of the future of this football club,” said Hasenhüttl,
“He has made some big steps this season, and he is someone who has a lot of potential to continue to grow as a player. This is the right place for him to continue to do this.
“He has shown in our training sessions and under pressure in matches that he can play, and he is also someone who understands our philosophy as a team and a club.
“He knows where and how he needs to improve his game, and I think that, together, we can develop him a lot in these next few years.