Craig Fleming and Martin Hunter said that the signings of Richard Bakary, Ollie Coook, Alfie Jones and Olufel Olomola on professional terms is testament to the players’ hard work.
Under-18s coach Craig Fleming and Technical Director Hunter were present at the signings alongside Academy Manager Matt Hale, with the club’s continued development of youth evidenced by the new contracts.
While it has been an up and down season for results in both the under-18s and the under-21s, the development of players remains at the forefront of the academy, which is vital to future success.
“That’s the job, but it’s very pleasing,” said Fleming. “All four have been on a different journey and have come through incredibly well.
“You look at them individually and Olufela struggled physically at the start of the season but worked incredibly hard with the physios and the strength and conditioning guys as he was struggling with cramp and watching him in games now he’s a different beast.
“It’s a running theme with all four of them that they’re hard-working and it’s paid off over the course of the season.”
Hunter added that the signings send out a clear message to the club’s young players that the pathway towards first team action remains open at Southampton.
“I just think it reaffirms what we’re about which is potential into excellence,” he said. “Sometimes you get an opportunity through somebody going out on loan, and while you don’t want to see any of the players no matter what their age out injured, that also opens an opportunity as well.
“We keep talking to the players about when you get an opportunity, do your best to take it and by and large, they’ve done that this season.
“Alfie’s got the young player of the season and did particularly well,” Hunter added. “Ollie Cook was often his partner and they gelled the longer they played together although that was interrupted by some players coming back from loan spells.
“Armani Little’s had a good run in the side, Olufela, who’s really a central striker, has played on the right hand side and developed his understanding. Harry Lewis has also come into the team and Richard Bakary too, so we’ve had a lot of involvement with young players including Jake Vokins who made his debut at a young age, so that’s been very, very positive.
"There have been other players like Harry Hamblin who has stepped into the under-18s so from that point of view, it’s been very, very positive.”