“Now close”: Ralph makes claim on 21y/o maestro that’ll leave Southampton fans buzzing – opinion

“Now close”: Ralph makes claim on 21y/o maestro that’ll leave Southampton fans buzzing – opinion

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has provided a promising update on midfielder Will Smallbone’s injury status, with the academy graduate ‘now close’ to a return to action.

What’s the latest?

The 21-year-old has been out for nine months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and his manager has confirmed that he is set to return to training.

Hasenhuttl told Hampshire Live: “Will [Smallbone] is now on the very edge of coming back into training. He is still a no but I think that for the first time since the injury he will join us today,”

“We have not forced and duels with him. We have not forced and uncontrolled movements. We have tried to give him time and it is looking like he is now close to returning.”

Fans will be buzzing

Southampton fans will surely be buzzing to read these comments from Hasenhuttl as it confirms that Smallbone is closing in on a full recovery. The 21-year-old midfielder was only able to play three Premier League matches last season due to the injury, having made some big strides in the previous campaign to make himself a first team option.

In the 2019/20 season, Smallbone played nine Premier League games and averaged a solid SofaScore rating of 6.80, providing two assists from midfield and averaging 1.1 tackles per game. He also played, and scored, against Huddersfield in the FA Cup that year to get fans excited about his potential.

The club have a rich tradition of bringing through academy players, which could lead to added excitement from supporters when a promising talent rises through the ranks. Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, Theo Walcott and James Ward-Prowse are just a few of the names who have been successful after coming through the academy at St Mary’s.

This is why Smallbone’s return will leave Saints fans buzzing as they will be looking forward to hopefully seeing him fulfill his potential on the pitch. Hasenhuttl has ruled him out of this weekend’s clash with West Ham, but the Carabao Cup meeting with Championship side Sheffield United later this month could be the perfect opportunity to ease him back into the flow of things.

Patience will be required with the Irishman as he is coming back after almost a year on the sidelines, but fans will surely be excited to see him back in action as soon as possible. It is now down to the head coach to determine when is the best moment to throw him into the fray.

AND in other news, Development emerges on £50k-p/w Southampton “leader”…