Young Saints begin the New Year by hosting West Ham at Staplewood Campus...
Southampton U18 vs West Ham U18
U18 Premier League
Saturday 5th January 2019, 11am GMT
A tough opening to 2019 awaits Southampton's youngsters at Staplewood Campus tomorrow morning, with West Ham the visitors.
The Londoners currently occupy sixth place in league standings, with Saints two places south in eighth, and with a three point gulf between the sides.
Saints would draw level with their West Ham counterparts if they were to be victorious, while tomorrow's opposition have the chance to climb as high as fourth.
Last season's Staplewood clash was a lively affair, one which Saints edged 3-1, after West Ham had taken an early lead, with Michael Obafemi, Harlem Hale and Jonathan Afolabi finding the net.
LAST TIME: Saints 3-1 West Ham (Jan 2018)
COACH'S THOUGHTS: Paul Hardyman
After a festive break, Under-18s coach Paul Hardyman has been pleased with the physical condition of his youngsters, after returning to Staplewood this week, and wants to see more test themselves at the levels above between now and the end of the campaign.
"We've had three training days, but the boys have all had fitness programmes over the break," Hardyman began.
"They look fine, pretty sharp. We're looking forward to the run of games between now and the end of season. I was new to the boys at the beginning of the season; they were receiving new information and new ideas. But they've grown in confidence.
"Five or six are playing with the U23s, and one with the first team at the moment. There's a good progression line, and that's exactly what a good Academy is all about.
"What we're judged on is how many players are making the step up - we want to win games of course - but we're here to see development, and there's plenty of that at the minute."