Saints Under-18s coach Jason Dodd has revealed he’ll have the biggest squad yet to choose from for the visit of Leicester City on Saturday.
Southampton go into the weekend’s game against the Foxes at Staplewood – which is due to get underway at 12pm – full of confidence with increased personnel after an admirable comeback against Aston Villa last weekend to record a 3-3 draw.
The likes of Matt Targett, Ryan Seager, Jason McCarthy and Jake Flannigan – who were all in the Development Squad to face West Brom last week – trained with the U18s on Thursday and Dodd is delighted to have more options for tough upcoming fixtures, including next Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup tie with Portsmouth at St Mary’s.
When asked about Leicester, Dodd said: “They’ve had a few good results in the last couple of weeks. When we’ve played them before they’ve been strong, physical and they look like they like to play as well, so it’s going to be a really good test for us.
“The pleasing thing is we’re going into the game and the lads know they’ve got to perform to be in with a shout of playing on Tuesday night at St Mary’s. We’ve been working really hard this week with the normal scenarios – ball retention and just pushing them. They’ve been fantastic. We’re going into the game on the back of a really good week’s training.
“Whoever is performing has a great opportunity to play on the Tuesday, and they’ve all performed. It’s going to make our job difficult, but I quite like that. It means that rather than having ten or 11 standing out, almost everyone has put in a great performance this week.
“Come Saturday, if they put a performance in they’ve got a chance to play on the Tuesday. We’ve more or less put it over in there court: you perform – it makes it easier for us to pick the team.
“It’s good to have some Under-21s in the window for selection. I think we’ll have about 17 or 18 for the game on Saturday, which will be the biggest squad we’ve ever had – that’ll make it difficult.
“There’s going to be a few disappointed but they’ve got to understand that we’ve got to pick an XI that is going to go out and try and win the game – then we’ll start thinking about the Portsmouth game on the Tuesday.”
Dodd is grateful for a busy start to the December fixtures – which is reminiscent of what the First Team face – and believes it’ll be a beneficial experience for the youngsters in their development and learning.
“It’s vitally important,” the coach concluded. “We play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday – four games in two weeks – which is something we don’t often get. It means the players have got to recover quickly and have to be prepared, so it’ll be a good experience for us. Then they have their little break, and then they’ll be itching to go again when they come back.
“We want to finish before the Christmas break with a few decent performances and hopefully that’ll get us some wins.”