U18 Preview: Saints vs Aston Villa

By SFC Media Fri 12 Apr Saints v Aston Villa
Photo by James Bridle

Southampton’s youngsters embark upon their penultimate Under-18s Premier League fixture of the season this weekend, hosting Aston Villa at Staplewood.

Coming into the tie off the back of a dramatic comeback victory over Leicester City, Saints look well placed to finish inside the desirable top four, but can still be caught by West Ham who are three points behind.

A win on Saturday morning will seal fourth spot, though, and complete what has been a really positive second half of season, coming out on top in six of their nine encounters - only losing to the league’s top three sides.

This week's opponents Villa, in seventh, were edged out 3-2 by Spurs in their latest outing, but may be encouraged by the fact that they were 5-1 winners over Paul Hardyman’s side back in November - Saints’ heaviest defeat of the season.

COACH'S THOUGHTS: Paul Hardyman

Hardyman discusses his young side's change of fortune after the turn of the year, and how pleasing it's been to see young players develop and transition upwards; with three Under-18s involved in this week's Premier League International Cup semi-final meeting with Dinamo Zagreb.

"This year has flown by. Last home game of the season tomorrow," he began.

"There’s been a huge transformation this year; we only had one point after five games played at the start of the season.

"Personally, I’m very pleased with how the boys have responded. They’ve had to deal with a lot of change, and have coped very well.

"There were three U18s playing in the International Cup this week. Radhi [Jaïdi] trusts what we’re passing onto him and clearly the manager trusts the players moving up from the U23s. 

"There’s a great continuity going through the club and that’s so important for the younger boys. The biggest thing is providing opportunity, so these young lads have a chance to showcase what they can do.

"We were particularly poor against Aston Villa away, probably our worst performance of the season. That was a turning point for us, an eye opener for some of the lads.

"Our season changed from then on. There was an understanding from the boys and lessons learnt. We’ve shown a huge amount of character since then, to get to fourth in the table.

"Tomorrow is a game that we want to go and put right." 

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