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Saint Smallbone on an upward curve at his club

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Will Smallbone

Will Smallbone

Pool via REUTERS

Will Smallbone

Southampton boss Ralf Hassenhuttl has praised Irish youngster Will Smallbone as a "grown-up" player who will get even better next season.

Midfielder Smallbone, capped at youth level by Ireland and in line for promotion to the U-21 squad next month as senior team boss Stephen Kenny keeps an eye on his progress, had a strong finish to the Premier League season with the Saints.

He played in seven of their nine games after the league's restart and the form of Smallbone and his young compatriots at Southampton, Michael Obafemi and Will Smallbone, is food for thought for Kenny as he plans ahead.

Kenny suggested earlier this month that Smallbone is likely to play at U-21 level before any step up to the senior squad.

Recovered

A 1-1 draw with Brighton 13 days ago was only his second start and boss Hassenhuttl says he was impressed at how Smallbone recovered from an off-day there to impress on the last day of the season, Sunday's win over Sheffield United.

"After the game, I think it was Brighton, I was critical with him," Hasenhuttl told the Southampton Daily Echo.

"With the ball he is fantastic, against the ball he must still learn.

"He was much better against Sheffield United, I saw a guy who was aggressive, who wins balls.

"The good thing is that he can play No.10 and No.6, at No.6 he feels a bit more comfortable maybe, but on a No.10 he also can get in the box and create something.

"Will is a big hope for the future. He made as a No.10 also a good step forward, was aggressive, won balls also. As a six he is also calm on the ball.

"I think [against Sheffield United] we saw a very, very grown up performance and something we can build up."

Meanwhile, Dubliner Danny Rogers has hooked up with Kilmarnock after a long spell with SPL rivals Aberdeen and could make his debut in the season opener against Hibs on Saturday.

"I'm delighted to join Killie and as soon as the opportunity came up, I knew it was where I wanted to be" the goalkeeper said.

"It's a big club with big ambitions and I'm delighted to be part of that."