It’s worth bearing in mind that when Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl gave Callum Slattery his Premier League debut back in February the Saints were fifth from bottom and only four points clear of the drop-zone.
It’s worth noting too that the teenager wasn’t thrown into the more tepid waters of a home fixture. It was away to Burnley: brusque, bruising Burnley.
This illustrates the degree of trust the Austrian has in his emerging talent, a central midfielder of rare promise who is expected to kick on this campaign after five appearances last term – two of which were in the FA Cup.
Earlier this month the BBC highlighted seven youngsters set to break through to wider prominence and he was duly included among the likes of Phil Foden and Mason Mount. It is pertinent too that Hasenhuttl felt no need to strengthen his midfield this summer. He doesn’t have to.
The latter point ties in directly with the manager’s response to Slattery’s 90 minutes against the Clarets. Such was his ease in possession with intelligent, impactful movement throughout he was viewed as being like a new signing.
Now 20, the 5ft 9 academy product was expected to feature in the Saints’ pre-season venturing to Austria and it was a surprise when he was excluded. But Hasenhuttl dropped his young prodigy back into the under-23 set-up where he won rave reviews for his controlled performances.
Indeed, the words of Winchester City manager Craig Davies are a ringing endorsement of the player’s greatest asset: “Slattery and Hesketh were both excellent. Their movement and the way they found space in tight areas and drove with the ball really stood out.”
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From there he was swiftly promoted back into the first team squad for Southampton’s trip to China and this presumably mirrors Hasenhuttl’s strategy of assimilating his young star into his midfield this season; an area already staffed well by established personnel such as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oriol Romeu.
There will be a start here, a cameo from the bench there. Each minute accruing more experience.
For some time now Slattery has been highly regarded within the environs of St Marys and considered one of the brightest prospects to come through Southampton’s famed academy for a good period of years.
However, the secret leaked out to a wider audience in the summer of 2017 that the south coast club might have once again unearthed a gem when he featured in England’s successful Toulon Tournament.
As part of an exciting group that equally showcased the potential of Bournemouth’s David Brooks and Leicester’s Harvey Barnes, Slattery held his own and caught the eye too when he calmly slotted home the fourth penalty when the final against Ivory Coast went beyond extra-time.
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Eight months later he was parading his skills on a Premier League pitch and now he stands on the precipice of great things. He will do just fine too given his commendable attitude, saying recently: “When you get this moment, you’ve got to grab it with both hands. I’ve had to work extremely hard to make the chance and now I’ve got to take it.”
The Saints have an outstanding record in the modern era of bringing through youth but where Slattery will ultimately reside among the Bales and Walcotts is too early to call.
To this point, though, he is doing the club’s tradition proud.