Jake Flannigan is eager to impress Saints Development Squad coach Martin Hunter in a bid to win a starting place in the upcoming weeks.
After a sterling display as a more experienced player in the Under-18 side that thrashed Porstmouth 7-0 in an FA Youth Cup Third Round tie at St Mary’s on Tuesday, the youngster is now looking to add more goals to his game as he strives to hold down a starting role for the Under-21s.
Flannigan also believes the return of fellow midfielder Andy Robinson has provided quality competition that will ensure he and the other U21s fighting for spots in the centre of the park will boost their performances, both in training and on matchdays.
“It’s good to be back with the U21s,” the 17-year-old said. “Obviously it was good to be with the U18s and playing in the Youth Cup. Being back with the U21s and getting ready for Friday is great.
“I’m looking to start getting myself back in the starting 11 for the U21s and to start scoring more goals, as Martin has spoke to me about that. Those are my targets for the next few games.
“I definitely think the competition is beneficial for me. It’s in the back of my head that I need to perform if I want to get into the U21s. Robbo’s a great player – it’s been good to have him back. To have the competition from him really pushes me on to improve myself as a player.”
Flannigan revealed how Hunter employs slightly different methods to U18s coach Jason Dodd but maintains that he’s equally happy training with either.
The Academy product also recalled an experience against Stoke City’s U18s – the club that the U21s are facing on Friday – and said the younger ranks like to replicate the powerful style that the first team boast.
“Training was a bit light today with the game being tomorrow, so it was a bit more relaxed,” he explained. “We were working on team shape. It wasn’t too hard today.
“Martin and Doddsy have different coaching styles. Martin’s probably a bit quieter but when he needs to he’ll have a shout at you. Doddsy is very vocal. They’re both very good coaches that get great information across.
“I’ve played Stoke before – last year for the U18s. Unfortunately, we lost 2-1 but I think we deserved to win that game. Then we beat them at home. We know their style of play. They’re big and strong. We’re just going to have to be smart about our game.
“I guess it’s the same for every academy – they’re going to mirror the first team as we do with ours. We’re expecting them to be big and strong. We’re not going to doubt the fact that they’ll be able to play in between us but they’ll definitely be up for the long ball.
“I’m feeling confident. I’m still buzzing from the performance the other night. As well as the rest of the U21s, I’m feeling full of confidence that we can win.”