Under-18s coach Jason Dodd was thrilled to secure Saints’ place in the Elite stage of the Academy league, but warned his players that it’s now time to deliver.
Saints are guaranteed a top three finish in their group following Saturday morning’s 5-2 success over Sunderland at Staplewood, and although pleased to progress, Dodd says his side are there to be shot at in the New Year.
He told Saints Player: “We’re in a different position now, like an Arsenal or a Chelsea , or a Manchester United where we’re expected to win games.
“We’ve challenged and tested them on that today and the good thing is that they’ve passed it with flying colours.
“Our aim is to win every game and to put performances in to get the wins. Sometimes you put a great performance in and don’t get the win but this year we’ve been doing both things well which always helps.”
Having qualified to play against the best youth teams in the country, the step up in the quality of opposition will, however, maintain the standards that are expected of individuals to progress through the ranks at the club.
“For these players to get near the first team they need to become good professionals so we want to be playing against the best sides.
“On the other foot it means that week in week out it’s going to be tough for them, but that’s what they have to do to force their way into Martin Hunter’s development side, and then jump even further like James Ward-Prowse has done – into the first team.
“It’s easy for us - we put the onus on them and it’s up to them to deliver.
“The good thing is that these boys know that there is a passage here for them, and if they play consistently well then there is a chance for them to make it to the first team.”