Saints Academy forward Marcus Barnes has signed a professional contract with the club.
The striker only joined the club on a full-time basis in September, but after a successful start to his first year of a scholarship, the former Wolves man is now making further inroads towards the Development Squad at Southampton.
Barnes has scored six times in 13 appearances following his introduction in the Under-18s team, and the younger brother of former Derby County and West Bromwich Albion winger, Giles, is improving all of the time.
Marcus turned 17 on Sunday, which enabled him to sign his fresh terms with the Club – something he did ahead of Wednesday evening’s Premier League match against Aston Villa at St Mary’s, where he was also presented to the crowd ahead of kick-off.
The tall-but-mobile youngster boasts excellent finishing ability, with Barnes proving to be a real threat for opposing teams in his opening Saints campaign.
Ahead of being greeted by the Saints faithful on Wednesday evening, Marcus expressed his delight at penning a professional deal and spoke of his belief that he’s settled at the perfect club for him.
“I feel delighted,” Barnes enthused. “I really wanted to get it done. I’m buzzing for the moment – I’ve worked hard for it.
“This is definitely the right club for me. It’s brought through many good players and bringing through many more good ones at the moment. It just shows that there are good opportunities here.
“I’m settled in 100 per cent now. I’m just being myself round the boys, being myself with everybody. I’ve settled in really well. I get on with the lads really well and training’s excellent, so I’m enjoying my time.
“I’m feeling so much excitement – it’s overwhelmed me a bit. This is the best day of my life.”
Barnes, who has made a fantastic impression on the U18s since being recruited in the summer, paid tribute to the admirable work of coaches Jason Dodd and Paul Williams, who Marcus feels have significantly improved him since joining.
“They (Dodd and Williams) have been great for me,” Barnes revealed. “They always want to push me that extra mile. They don’t accept anything less than what their standards are. They’re always pushing me to be the best I can be – that’s really positive.
“They’re also there to talk to if you ever need any help. They’ve helped me become a better player with each and every day in training. Every little point and tip – that little detail can add to my game a lot for the big picture in the end.”
Looking ahead to the future, Barnes is striving to emulate fellow Saints youngster Sam Gallagher in making the step up to the Under-21s side and beyond.
The forward continued: “My upcoming targets are to be a starter in the U18s side and then hopefully get some more goals and push for the Under-21 side.
“Sam [Gallagher] is only a year older than me. We play the same position, so it gives us hope and competition as well.
“I’ve been in the right place at the right time and taken my opportunity. I would like to have scored a few more but there’s still time to come!”
Williams has lavished praise on the youngster, stressing how much of a pleasure he’s been to have on-board, both on and off the pitch.
The coach has already seen a burning desire to achieve at U18s level – a trait that is undoubtedly paramount in spurring Barnes onto better things in the future.
“Marcus has done really well,” the U18s assistant coach said recently. “He came in and he’s really hungry for the game. His goals show that he can score but he’s a talent.
“Obviously his brother Giles is a good player too so hopefully we’ll see that come out in Marcus over the next couple of years.
“I’ve been more impressed with his attitude to learning and his attitude to wanting to play. He’s come in and settled in with the lads – I’m impressed. His goals are a bonus but his general application to learning is very good.
“His attitude towards to training has been helpful to everyone – he’s been an example. He’s come and settled really well, talking to the coaches and the team, he’s done that throughout his time here.”