Southampton face Leicester City at St Mary’s on Friday night and will be hoping to earn three points which would ease any lingering relegation fears this season.
Ralph Hasenhuttl spoke in midweek about how youngsters should be given time to develop, and therefore it seems likely that plenty of Southampton’s academy graduates will be given opportunities to impress in the final few weeks of the season.
One youngster who has established himself in the first team fold this season is Nathan Tella. The 21-year-old, who joined from Arsenal’s academy, was excelling with David Horseman’s B team earlier in the season and was promoted to the senior side as a result.
He has now made 18 senior appearances for the Saints and, whilst he is yet to find the elusive first goal, he did pick up an assist in the FA Cup win against Wolves.
However, these 18 appearances have totalled just 627 minutes, with the majority of his game-time coming as a late substitute, and it is time that Hasenhuttl trusted him to start more often.
The forward impressed in a 2-0 win against Sheffield United earlier in the season and could perhaps be utilised in a number nine role again against Leicester, especially with Danny Ings sidelined through injury.
Hasenhuttl was full of praise for Tella after he did well in Southampton’s 2-1 defeat against Spurs last time out as he said: “He also showed he can be a threat for the opponent. This is what we need in front.
“With his work against the ball in combination with his quality with the ball – he can be in the future a good alternative for us in the attacking stuff.
“For me, at the moment, he is the guy in the youth that is the furthest in his development so far.”
He also described the youngster as one of the “jewels” of Southampton’s academy earlier in the season, which suggests that he rates him highly and sees him as a big part of the Saints’ future.
Therefore, Tella deserves to keep his place in the side against Leicester on Friday night, as he deserves a run of games in the Premier League to show what he can do ahead of next season, when he will no doubt be targeting a regular starting berth.