Martin Hunter is relishing the possibility of Tottenham Hotspur fielding a couple of first-team players when Saints’ Development Squad welcome them on Friday.
Sandro and Danny Rose were deployed in Spurs’ last Under-21 game – a loss to Bolton Wanderers – and Hunter certainly isn’t fearing the idea of them appearing again at Staplewood for the 7.30pm kick-off as they look to continue injury recoveries.
The coach is refusing to underestimate this week’s visitors – who sit 18th in the Barclays U21 Premier League, seven places below Southampton – and is wary of the variety of ways they may look to harm his side.
“They’ve got technically very good players,” the U21 boss affirmed to saintsfc.co.uk. “They employ a similar style to us as in they play out from the back.
“They’ve got different weapons, so they’ll try and score from crosses and overload you in wide positions but they’ll also play through you if you don’t get your defensive distances in the right manner.
“We’re very much looking forward to the game. We finished last season off with really well with a very good performance here against Tottenham, so we’re looking to emulate that on Friday.
“The chance to play against senior players is always good – it can work in your favour. Sometimes the senior players don’t actually want to be playing in the U21 games.”
Aside from a setback in the form of a minor knee injury sustained by Joe Curtis, along with the ongoing recoveries of ‘keeper Will Britt and Bevis Mugabi, Hunter has a full squad to choose from.
The coach is also keeping a close eye on the progress of Ryan Seager, who is being nurtured back to full match fitness through work with both the U21s and Under-18s.
“Joe Curtis has picked up a knee injury,” he confirmed. “Will Britt is still being treated for his back problem. Apart from that, we have the bulk of the squad to pick from.
“Joe has just tweaked his knee in a box game that we had this week. Hopefully, it’s not too serious.
“Will is making good progress. With the detail that our medical team go through with players, it’s a step-by-step process daily for him.
“Ryan Seager’s time with the U18s has helped him to recover his fitness after a few weeks out with an ankle injury. He was unlucky not to score in the recent friendly with Bournemouth. He’s doing nicely at the moment.
“He’s got a very good football brain; he’s got good movement patterns. He’s a finisher – like all strikers, they’ll go through little barren patches. He’s scored for the U18s and I’m positive he’ll score for the U21s.”
Hunter revealed that his team selection will again be dictated by any potential requirements from the First Team regarding U21 players ahead of Saturday’s welcoming of Liverpool.
More than just a handful of Hunter’s side have been plucked for training with Mauricio Pochettino’s group over the past week and the U21 coach has no issues with the possibility of some being included in the First Team this week, citing his high level of faith in all of his players.
The coach may be tempted to do some lifting from the rank below himself, with the likes of Jake Hesketh impressing in Development Squad training recently.
He continued: “We’ve had seven of our boys training with the First Team at certain points throughout the week, which is great news for the Club and great for their development and understanding of how it is to play with senior professionals.
“We’ll wait and see on what players may be required for the First Team this weekend. Whatever is decided, we’ll go with that. We’re confident with the players that we’ve got and we’ll take it from there.
“Jake [Hesketh] has been training with the U21 squad now for the last fortnight. He’s getting better and better after being nervous to start with.
“He’s getting to grips with the pace of what’s required and he’s got a good understanding of how to play in three or four different positions which bodes well for him.”