Nathan Tella believes Southampton’s performance against Manchester City proved how far the team has progressed this season, in spite of the 1-0 defeat at St Mary’s.
The forward was summoned off the bench in the 41st minute after Danny Ings hobbled off the field injured, thrusting the 21-year-old into the spotlight against one of Europe’s top teams.
Saints ended the game with Tella partnered in attack by fellow youngster Dan N’Lundulu, also 21, as Ralph Hasenhüttl showed his faith in the Academy.
“As a team we knew we were up against a really good opposition – a team who love to have possession of the ball,” Tella said.
“We knew what we had to go and do. Obviously they got the early goal, but I didn’t feel that we were ever out of the game.
“We had a game plan at the start and we stuck to it. Today it wasn’t enough, but I don’t feel like we should be disappointed with how the result went.
“Especially with where we were this time last year, we’ve come a long way in terms of performances and results, and the fact we’ve come away disappointed with a narrow loss, having only conceded one goal, shows how far we’ve come.
“We know we’ve had a great start to the season. We want to win every game, but I feel like today we still have something we can build on – a stepping block, so we can go on and just keep getting results.”
Tella, who recently netted four goals in the first half against Leicester for Saints’ B team, says he relished the chance to test himself against the Premier League elite, and now hopes for more opportunities to impress.
“It’s something that I speak about a lot – I want the manager to be able to trust me and be reliable,” he added. “I’m obviously happy that he was able to bring me on and he felt like I could go out and do a job and help the team, and hopefully there’s more to come.
“It was a tough game with a lot of running against a team who always have possession, but I felt like the team gave me confidence – they told me how to play, what to do, how to press.
“I felt like it was another opportunity for us to get another three points, but I’m still happy with myself.
“It helps me a lot, because these are the games and the opponents you want to be playing against. It’s all about the experience, so you know what to expect next time.”