Saints Under-18s coach Jason Dodd is relishing the challenge that high-flying Aston Villa will pose when they clash in the Midlands on Saturday.
Villa have won eight of their 12 games in the league this season and Dodd believes it’ll give Southampton a measure of where they’re at in terms of ability.
The buoyant coach has also been boosted by a strong start to the week in training following the U18s’ impressive win over Reading last weekend – a trend Dodd is striving to continue.
The former Saints full-back told Saints Player: “It’s been a really good start to the week. We know we’ve got a really tough game at Aston Villa at the weekend. They’re a really good side and they’re doing really well.
“There’s the Development [Squad] game on the Friday so it’ll be interesting to see some of our boys getting to go with them and it gives other people an opportunity to play.
“We’re going to do what we do. Of course we’re going to do some homework on them and see how they play and where their strengths and weaknesses are. Our focus now is on preparation for the game on Saturday.
“We know they’re a strong side. We want to be playing the top sides – that’s why it’s great to go to Villa. They’re a good, strong side. We get to find out where we are. We’re going into what is going to be a tough one but all games in this Premier League are tough. We’re looking forward to it.”
As U18 players continue to make the step up to higher ranks in the same vein as their predecessors, Dodd is optimistic about the next raft of U16 youngsters pushing through.
After organising a strenuous training match between both age groups, the coach was impressed with the standard displayed by the younger side.
Dodd revealed: “We managed to get seven or eight of the Under-16s involved so we can look at them to see how they’re doing – we can compare where they are with our boys. Decisions are going to be made on them over the next couple of months.
“They (the U16s) did really well. Anthony Limbrick, the coach, has said they’ve been doing quite well so it gives me and Paul Williams the opportunity against us.
“We see them quite a lot anyway because of the Thursday morning sessions. Willo has been around them quite a lot and I’ve been getting up and around there, so we’re seeing a lot of the U16s. Some of them have got some work to do but some of them are doing really well.”