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Ireland U19 international praised after man-of-the-match performance on Premier League debut

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhüttl is a big admirer of Will Smallbone.

Will Smallbone (file pic).
Will Smallbone (file pic).
Image: Adam Davy

SOUTHAMPTON BOSS Ralph Hasenhüttl was full of praise for Will Smallbone, after the Ireland U19 international made his Premier League debut at the weekend.

The youngster, who turned 20 the day before the game, started in the Saints’ 2-0 win over Aston Villa and played 80 minutes, later winning the man-of-the-match award voted for by the club’s fans.

Central midfielder Smallbone was born in Basingstoke, but has represented Ireland at underage level, and has already appeared in the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Huddersfield for the Saints’ senior team, scoring in that win.

“I think he shows in the sessions that he can play,” Hasenhüttl told the club’s official website. “He’s left and right-footed — similarly good — and he knows our philosophy now very well.

“The rest is about getting the chance to play, and if you play, you have to do a good job.

In the end, he was struggling with the power and the energy a little bit, but it’s ok, he did a good job.

“I’m very happy for him that in an important game he gets his debut in the Premier League, one day after his 20th birthday.

“It’s a signal for the club and for him: this is the way we want to go.

“We have a few more guys in our youth who will get the chance in the future — we must see how far they are in their development.”

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Paul Fennessy

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