Southampton Under-21s were eliminated from the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Cup after a 2-0 away defeat at the hands of the Grecians last week. Despite that, Hunter is brimming with confidence in his players’ ability to put that right in the midlands by taking all three points against the Baggies.
When asked if the youngsters were raring to go for the game – due to get underway at 1pm – the coach told Saints Player
: “Of course they are; it means a lot to them. It’s their careers. It’s what they’re paid to do.
“When they’re in the U21 squad we expect to perform well and to win football matches. There’s no hiding away from that. The players work hard during every session. We’ve had a very good week. They have been very responsive to everything that we’ve been doing.
“Some of them have trained with the First Team and equipped themselves well. It’s a vital component of these young players stepping up. The manager expects high standards when they go there and, to be fair to them, they’ve all been delivering that.
“I’m always confident with these players. We don’t want them good on the training pitch; we want them good on the training pitch and excellent when they play. The preparation will be spot on – I can guarantee that. Come game day on Friday afternoon, it’s over to the players.”
Looking ahead to the West Brom tie, Hunter is under no illusion about the quality that Friday’s opponents can provide and is eager to avoid a repeat of last season’s result, where the Baggies stunned the Saints with a three-goal comeback in the late stages of the match to draw 3-3.
The coach is also eager to utilise striker Sam Gallagher’s talents up top to ensure he’s gifted the right service to shine and settle into the U21s ranks since he moved up from the Under-18s.
He continued: “They (West Brom) have got good, young players. You never know quite what to expect in terms of the players they can put out because of the three over-age outfield players that they can choose from and an over-age ‘keeper.
“They produce good, technical players. They did last year, and we owe them for last year having been three-nil up (WBA brought it back to 3-3 from 3-0 in late stages). So we’ll see what sort of side they put out.
“He (Sam Gallagher) is there on merit – we’ve said that to him in his review. Now we need to use him. What we don’t want to be doing is kicking the ball from back to front.
“He is a presence; we have to give him good service. He’s a good footballer with good movement patterns, so he fits into the formation and the type of play that we want.”