Fleming picks out highlights from Under-18s' campaign

By SFC Media Tue 24 May Club

Craig Fleming felt that his young Southampton side’s best performance of the season came in the 4-1 win over Arsenal at Staplewood.

The October success saw Saints record their third victory of the campaign at that stage with Olufela Olomola, Tyreke Johnson and Callum Slattery all on target in the win.

The Gunners had levelled it at 1-1 before the hosts retook the lead before half-time and added two more goals in the second 45 minutes.

“We’ve always been comfortable in possession, but that day defensively the two came together,” he explained. “That’s something we struggled with towards the end of the season, where we tied up defensively but perhaps didn’t create as many chances unlike earlier in the season where we were also very open and very loose, but it all came together in that Arsenal game. It was a fantastic performance against a very good team.”

That game saw Johnson contribute his second goal in as many games and he was one six players who started that match and went on to sign professional terms with the club.

Later on in the campaign opportunities opened up for players in the under-16 age group to step up, with left back Jake Vokins making a particularly memorable breakthrough into the under-21s squad just weeks after making his debut in the FA Youth Cup.

“There have been a few,” Fleming outlined. “Jake got his chance in the Youth Cup through injury and played left back which he’d never played before and within three or four games he’s a regular for the under-21s at 15 so that was fantastic for Jake and the club, but there’s been others as well. 

“It’s not fair to single out all the names lower down, but there have been some who have really blossomed especially in the first year group who are no mainstays of the under-18 group and looking at getting into the under-21 side.

“Ultimately that’s the job. It’s football and we’re all competitive people who want to win but we definitely want to win by playing the right style of football. The job is about getting players through with me getting them ready for Martin [Hunter]’s squad in the 21s and Martin getting them ready for hopefully first team football here, but if not then somewhere else, and that has been very pleasing to see. 

“We’ve had Olufela [Olomola] who made the bench for the first team as a scholar and I think that’s a tremendous achievement, and again, shows the pathway that the club has. Alfie [Jones] has been outstanding for the under-21s and has been in and around first team training quite a bit so it’s regular for those guys now and that’s the most pleasing part to see.

“Looking at what’s coming in for next year as well, we’ve got some very exciting prospects to come through and it just keeps that chain going and hopefully they’ll push the ones who have moved on and overtake those guys.

“It’s really exciting times for the individuals in and around the 18s and the 21s as well as the lads coming in for next year, so there’s some potentially really exciting prospects.”


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