Craig Fleming says there will be more players promoted into the Under-18s for this Saturday’s game against Leicester City in the final fixture of the regular season.
The progress of defenders Alfie Jones and Jake Vokins into the under-21s side has highlighted how the pathway in the development squad continues to shine, and Fleming says more players will be given the opportunity to impress in the coming weeks.
Saints end their regular season of 22 games this weekend before heading into an eight-team division where they will be looking to end a run of ten straight defeats, but in a week where there has been good news for individual players, Fleming is hoping for more of the same on Saturday.
“It kind of epitomises what the Southampton Way is I think and the pathway that we’ve got,” he told youtube.com/southamptonfc.
“Alfie played for the Under-21s and looks so assured now and totally at home there. He played very, very well. You’ve also got young Jake at 15 years-old making his Under-21s debut last Monday too and did very well against tough opposition.
“We had a meeting after Ben Cull went down injured and we didn’t have another left-back at all, so just before the Youth Cup myself and Matt Hale (Academy Manager) sat down and Matt said, ‘he hasn’t played there, but let’s give Jake a go’, so he made his debut and played only three or four games at left-back in his career but made his debut there in the Youth Cup for us.
“Martin [Hunter] and I then sat down prior to the last game and before you know it, he was in. An unfortunate injury to Josh Debayo means he could be in there for a few weeks.”
Saints have an opportunity to start their run-in to the end of the season in a positive manner with a home game against Leicester on Saturday, and Fleming is hopeful that the team can generate some momentum from this contest.
“It will be tough,” he outlined. “They are one of the better teams in the division, physical, big with a nice mix between the two so it will be a very tough game if it’s anything to judge on the away game that we played.
“We can’t hide the fact that the results haven’t been great but the theory we’re trying to get across is that we’re trying to teach them how to win games and how not to lose them. Whether they’re capable of that or they do it then it isn’t necessarily the end product, but we’re just teaching them the way and hopefully there’ll be three or four who come through every year and progress like Alfie and Jake have.
“We’re going to be stretched because we have a knock-on effect with all the boys who have one out on loan as well so then the progression is that our boys go up and then Rob’s [Edwards] under-16 boys get their chance in the Under-18s so we’re going to be stretched and we will be very young.
“The starting eleven on Saturday will be incredibly young and with players playing out of position because we are stretched, but it gives others an opportunity like Jake has had.”