Southampton face League One Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup on Tuesday evening and whilst the Saints will no doubt be hoping for a cup run, the game represents an ideal opportunity for Ralph Hasenhuttl to utilise some of his academy talents.
Shrewsbury are struggling in the third tier so far this season so you would expect Southampton to have enough quality to deal with them, even if Hasenhuttl does opt to call up some youngsters to the first-team squad.
One academy talent who should be involved against the Shropshire side is 20-year-old Jake Vokins.
The left-back is more experienced than a lot of other academy players at Southampton, having made three appearances for the first-team in his career thus far, including one goal.
That goal came in a 2-0 win against Championship side Huddersfield Town at this stage of the FA Cup last season, when he sealed the win with a powerful late drive that went in off the crossbar.
Therefore, Hasenhuttl has trusted him to play in this competition before against opposition that are objectively stronger than Shrewsbury, so he should be handed his fourth appearance for the Saints on Tuesday night.
It would allow the Austrian to rest Ryan Bertrand, who has been a mainstay in the Saints’ team so far this season, perhaps due to a lack of senior back-up options to the 31-year-old.
Playing Vokins would also allow Hasenhuttl to cast an eye to the future, as Bertrand’s contract is set to expire in the summer. If he does end up leaving the South Coast club, it could well be the 20-year-old who is expected to step up as his replacement.
It would also allow the Southampton manager to assess whether Vokins can be a reliable back-up the former Chelsea man, especially with the Saints heavily linked with Manchester United left-back Brandon Williams, so Tuesday could well prove to be Vokins’ one and only chance to impress in the first-team this season.
The 20-year-old definitely deserves an opportunity to show Hasenhuttl what he can do in the first-team, so the Austrian must unleash him against Shrewsbury this evening.