Martin Hunter believes that a number of players in Southampton’s development squad have reaped rewards from getting first team experience at professional clubs this season.
A number of Saints have profited from making steps into the football league, including the likes of Lloyd Isgrove, who has helped transform Barnsley from League 1 relegation battlers to promotion contenders.
The club’s policy of loaning players out when the time is right for their development sees Saints make the best possible use of the loan system, in the hope that the club’s young talents will push for a first team place on their returns to St Mary’s.
“Loans are difficult in the fact that you want the loan players to get as much match time as possible, however, their first team managers are judged on results," Hunter added.
“Jordan Turnbull has now played roughly 100 league games which is great for his CV, Jason McCarthy has played 40 league games and won their supporters’ player of the year, so well done to him. Lloyd Isgrove got the opportunity to get to Wembley for a third time and he’s certainly a lucky boys as there aren’t too many players that will do that.
"Sam McQueen had some time at Southend which has seen him gain some valuable experience, and Jack Stephens too, who is now up to the 90-100 appearance mark as well which is all very positive and good for their development. They’ll all be back in for pre-season again.
“It’s more evidence of how the club is progressing. We get a lot of clubs now that will come to the Under-21 games to scout the players and assess how good they are and the availability depends on whether we’re prepared to go into a partnership with them or if it’s to the benefit of the player.
“We’ll certainly look at that again and when the time is right for that player then we’ll be in negotiation if we think the loan route is appropriate for the player’s development.”
To help bridge the gap of the players out on loan, the Under-21s have included a number of first team players in need of game time over the course of the season, and Hunter is delighted with the way the experienced professionals have helped the club’s younger players.
“They actually coach the players when they’ve played and all the great examples they were very positive and took the game extremely seriously to help the players around them,” he said.
“Ryan [Bertrand] played at Wycombe in front of the cameras against Reading, Jay [Rodriguez] scored a hat-trick at Liverpool and Florin Gardos has been particularly good in the last games building his match fitness back up.
“It’s a win really for both the senior player in terms of his progression back into the first team and for the young players with their professionalism and their experience.”