Jason Dodd believes Saints Under-18s will be facing a slightly different Stoke City to the style that people might perceive them to employ.
The Potters’ first team has been renowned in recent years for persevering with a direct and robust approach that heavily relies on supplying powerful forwards.
While maintaining that Stoke retain a physical aspect, Dodd detects more technical traits now from a side he’s been impressed with recently, despite Saturday’s guests at Staplewood – for an 11am kick-off – currently sitting bottom of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League North Group.
“Stoke have slightly changed,” the coach assessed when speaking to saintsfc.co.uk. “I watched them in their previous league game when they played Leicester City. They won two-nil and did really well. They then flew out to America and won a tournament over there.
“They’re in decent form and it’ll be a really good game for us. They’re maybe not as physical as what they were last year. They look as though they try and get the ball down and play.
“We’ll try and mix our play up a bit. We’ve not got the biggest of sides, so it’s not really in a nature to boot the ball up the field because that’s not one of our strengths. We’ll be getting the ball down and playing as well.”
The U18 boss is hoping to have the likes of Jake Flannigan, Jason McCarthy and Ryan Seager – Under-21 players who represented the U18s in the recent Saint-Joseph tournament – available for this weekend and the following Saturday when Southampton visit Tottenham Hotspur.
Dodd also hinted that some Under-16 charges may get more opportunities after taking earlier chances when given run-outs towards the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
The former Saints full-back continued: “If the Development Squad lads who are 18 years old are around the First Team, it’s fantastic. Whether or not we’ll have them for selection is dictated by whether they’ll be with the First Team.
“Jason McCarthy, for example, was the standout player for us on our trip to France. That tells you he’s an important player, so we’d love to have him.
“Depending on our numbers, the likes of Alfie Jones, Ollie Cook and Callum Slattery could be involved because whenever they’ve been given a chance, they’ve done really well.”