While results on the pitch may not have been as impressive as previous seasons, it was another campaign of continued progression for Southampton’s youngsters.
No fewer than 14 of Craig Fleming’s Under-18s featured for Martin Hunter’s development side throughout the campaign, with the likes of Alfie Jones, Ollie Cook and Olufela Olomola making the step up regularly over the course of the second half of the campaign.
Saints’ season began in difficult fashion, as Fleming’s side were beaten in their opening four games of the season, despite impressing in home defeats to Reading and Tottenham Hotspur.
A first win of the campaign arrived in September, as an excellent goal from Olomola proved to be the catalyst for Fleming’s side to beat Fulham 2-1 at Staplewood.
A second victory soon followed as Joe Lea, Olomola and Carel Kayembe all scored in a 3-1 win against Swansea City away from home, as Saints’ season looked to turn a corner results-wise.
After defeats to West Ham United and Leicester City, Saints’ youngsters enjoyed their best run of the campaign, drawing with Brighton & Hove Albion and Norwich City, while hammering Arsenal and Aston Villa at home.
An early exit in the FA Youth Cup, as Birmingham won 3-2 at St Mary’s, came in the middle of a difficult league run in which Saints failed to win in nine games.
The positives were evident away from results however, as 15-year-old Jake Vokins made his debut in the FA Youth Cup loss, while Jones, Cook, Olomola and Bakary were just four of the youngsters who had stepped up into the Under-21s.
A three-game unbeaten run in the play-offs lifted spirits, as Saints drew with Swansea City and Brighton before beating Norwich City 3-1 at Staplewood.
The season ended with four losses, but it was off the pitch that success was being seen, as Bakary, Jones, Cook and Olomola all signed professional contracts, while Thomas O’Connor followed suit ahead of his second year as a scholar.
Earlier in the campaign, Tyreke Johnson had done the same on his 17th birthday, while Callum Slattery and Yan Valery also agreed professional terms over the course of the season.