Martin Hunter has noticed a significant improvement in the thought processes of Saints’ Development Squad as they prepare to welcome Fulham on Wednesday.
Southampton Under-21s are looking to stretch their finest streak of the season to four consecutive victories when the Cottagers – who, according to Hunter, mirror Saints’ style of play – visit Staplewood for a 2pm kick-off.
The Londoners lead the way in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League and Hunter feels they deserve to occupy the top spot through the manner in which they utilise their pace.
The coach told saintsfc.co.uk: “I think they (Fulham) have got a good way of recruiting players. I believe they do spend money to aid their recruitment.
“There’s the old adage that results don’t lie – they’re top of the league on merit. I’ve watched several games that they’ve played. They have the modern vogue of playing out from the back. They play with two wide players, a central striker and they try to play through the thirds – something that’s akin to what we do.
“They’re very athletic and very quick but nothing that we’ve not witnessed before. It will be an interesting encounter tomorrow.”
Hunter is delighted with the form that his side and Saints’ Under-18s are displaying that is keeping the teams in contention to reach the elite rounds of their respective leagues.
The U21 boss stressed that Saints’ Youth sides must maintain their current runs to meet the aims set by the Club and also revealed that he’s seeing an improvement in his own players’ mentality.
He continued: “It’s always good at this time of the year – whatever age group – to put a run of winning games together. We’ve been doing that and hopefully it’ll continue tomorrow.
“The players are stepping up to the mark. They’re more composed, more mature. The things we do on a daily basis are what we want to see and we have been seeing them in recent games.
“There’s competition for places and that’s healthy. We just need to keep doing what is right for this Club to produce good footballers.
“The biggest plus for me is when you look at the number of young players training with the First Team. Both the Under-18s and U21s doing well in their leagues is great news but we’re mindful of the future and what we need to achieve to meet the aims set within the Club.”
Hunter confirmed there will be notable changes for tomorrow’s game but also said he has nearly all of his personnel to pick from.
Sam Gallagher will be in the squad after playing 45 minutes in Saints’ 3-0 win over Wolves, while Jake Hesketh could be in line for more action after a substitute appearance in the same game.
“There will be some changes tomorrow,” Hunte affirmed. “Jake is working hard. I feel comfortable enough when he’s on the bench to put him on.
“The good thing is that he and Ryan Seager have got the opportunity to play for the U18s if they don’t get game-time for the U21s. They’re never lagging behind in terms of match fitness.
“Sam Gallagher will be in the squad. It’s a Wednesday game, so there is time to recover before the weekend. It’s important that players get game-time.
“We’re picking up from a virtually fully fit squad again. We’re getting ready for the game in a good position. We’ve had good match preparation this morning. The players will report for pre-match tomorrow and we can’t wait for 2pm.”