U23 Season Review: Radhi Jaïdi

By SFC Media Tue 22 May U 23
Photo by James Bridle | Radhi Jaïdi

It is perhaps best described as a season of two halves for Radhi Jaïdi's youngsters, who struggled for form early on, but enjoyed a much improved campaign at the turn of the year.

Recalling some of the season's fondest memories, as well as assessing some of the more difficult moments, Jaïdi talked us through the highs and lows of his Under-23s season at Staplewood Campus last week.

Naturally, development was the overarching theme for the coaching staff, with plenty of players gaining valuable experience in various competitions, including the EFL Trophy.

And although there wasn't much movement into the first team, Jaïdi still views the season's experiences as significant to his young players' progression at the club.

"It's been a positive season from a development point of view," he said. "The start was a little frustrating, where we didn't manage as many positive results.

"The players were continually trying to understand and apply what the coaches wanted and as the season went on, the application grew.

"By the end of the season there was a big difference and jump in terms of performance. There are still inconsistencies, but the strong finish was very pleasing."

Under-23s midfielder Callum Slattery trains with the first team at Staplewood.

Saints took part in the Checkatrade Trophy for the second season running, eventually losing out to Northampton Town on penalties in their final group game.

But it was a journey of maturity for Jaïdi's young players, who, despite exiting the competition at the group stages, learnt plenty about the challenges of the game at senior level.

"We've improved in key moments," he continued. "We'll likely be in the Checkatrade Trophy again next year, which has given our boys vital experience and exposure.

"It gives them an insight into what it looks like at professional level, when it's your livelihood, and you play in stadiums against senior players.

"Our main aim will continue to be to move back into Premier League 2's First Division, but we don't take the cup competitions lightly."

There were also a host of Saints youngsters, many of whom remain under the watchful eye of Jaïdi, who enjoyed encouraging seasons out on loan, namely Harrison Reed, Sam Gallagher and Matt Targett, while Josh Sims and Sam McQueen together made a handful of first team appearances at St Mary's.

All promising signs for the Saints production line, and also for the line of emerging stars who lie waiting in the wings, in the knowledge that hard work reaps its rewards for young talent at Southampton FC.

"We'll have higher numbers next season, so the competition for places will be stronger.

"The boys need to come back ready to compete, and ready to take opportunities - because they aren't gifted, they're earned.

"We improved a lot last year, particularly our game management as a team, and I want to see more of that."

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