In a week of personal development for young midfielder Will Smallbone, manager Ralph Hasenhüttl has spoken of the importance of his return to the side.
Still only 21 years of age, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international had only just began to build momentum when he was hit with that ACL injury at Leicester in January.
The long road to recovery has only just reached its exciting end, his cameo off the bench against Chelsea during Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup tie already reminding Saints fans of what this key midfield option could bring to their side.
A decision from the substitutes bench which could have turned into a baptism of fire, Smallbone justified his manager’s trust with his mature performance. Now Hasenhüttl is calling for more of the same as his recovery reaches its finale.
"It’s very important that after this long break he has a chance to play,” said the manager ahead of this weekend’s trip to Watford.
Ralph HasenhüttlIt's good that we have him here and give him the chance and the trust.
on Will Smallbone's return
“There are so many opportunities and you have to give him a chance to play. He had that chance against Chelsea in the League Cup clash.
“It’s good that we have him there and give him the chance and the trust. He did a good job on the pitch [against Chelsea]. He had a big chance to score and some other good moments.
“The penalty shootout, as I said after the game, you shouldn’t worry about missing a penalty. It’s more important that he’s back fit and gives us another alternative in midfield.”