Southampton’s youngsters begin their Under-18 Premier League campaign on Saturday, with Mikey Harris’ side looking to share similar fortune to their 2021/22 campaign.
Saints vs Aston Villa
Under-18s Premier League
Saturday 13 August, 1pm BST
While Carl Martin and Mikey Harris’ side lost out to Manchester City in the national final, it was a hugely impressive 2021/22 campaign for Southampton’s youngsters.
With Martin now moving up to help Ralph Hasenhüttl and the first team, Harris has taken full control of the Under-18 squad ahead of the 2022/23 season.
Saints will be hoping to kick things off with victory over Aston Villa on home turf, as they look to retain their Under 18 Premier League South title.
Aston Villa finished 12th in last season’s league standings, and will surely be looking to turn their fortunes for the new campaign.
Saints emerged victorious in both encounters last season, racing to a huge 5-0 victory at Bodymoor Heath Training Ground in February.
A Dom Ballard hattrick, accompanied by goals from Will Armitage and Luke Pearce ensured Saints’ substantial win on their course to becoming league champions.
The path to victory wasn’t so easy when Villa visited Staplewood in November. Goals from Tyler Dibling and Dom Ballard saw Saints two goals to the good after 18 minutes, but Chisom Afoka pulled one back for the visitors just six minutes later.
A goal from Ryan Finnigan saw Saints regain their two goal advantage upon 44 minutes, but just one minute later Edward Rowe found the back of the net to reduce the deficit once more.
An energised first-half continued, with Luke Pearce adding to the goals seconds before the break. While Afoka was the first to draw blood in the second, further goals from Dibling and Finnigan secured all three points at Staplewood.
"We're really excited," admitted boss Mikey Harris. "Obviously pre-season is great but you can't beat the real thing.
"It's what we've been working up to this pre-season, we had two really good games at Aston Villa this year. They're a strong side and we know it's going to be tough."
Not only have Saints brought in a number of scholars for the 2022/23 season, the recent signing of Eric Hanbury on loan from Manchester United boosts Harris' options in goal.
"So we've brought in a goalkeeper from Man United on loan. Obviously we've had a lot of lads go up to the B team which is amazing for them and a lot of them will play tonight, so it gives us opportunities for others to play for the Under-18s and we'll have a lot of other pre-scholars in the squad."