Jason Dodd insists Sam Gallagher has a bright future at Saints after revealing the club’s first team squad have been impressed with the academy’s latest young talent.
Gallagher burst onto the scene with a goal against Yeovil in the FA Cup last month followed by a high profile first professional start against Premier League leaders Arsenal.
With Dani Osvaldo having left the club, Gallagher is now set to provide the main striking back-up to Rickie Lambert for the remainder of the campaign.
As such the 18-year-old east Devonian, who joined the club’s academy two years ago from Plymouth for a fee of around £100,000, is expected to get plenty of playing time in the final few months of this season.
Gallagher made his sixth Premier League appearance as a late sub at Fulham last weekend, Rickie Lambert’s return to fitness relegating him back to the bench after starting against the Gunners.
Dodd, who has managed Gallagher’s progress in the under-18s, is confident that his charge can handle the pressure, and insists he has already made a significant impact on the first team squad.
“We have noticed a massive difference in him,” said Dodd of Gallagher.
“We were asking him a couple of months ago to get a bit more physical – the problem was we had no one the size of Sam to deal with him.
“Step up into the first team and you’ve got the likes of Jose (Fonte) who is putting him under pressure. He’s had to learn quickly.
“The thing about Sam is that he’s a quick leaner and he’s adapted.
“The first team players are impressed by what’s he’s done because he’s a level-headed, really nice young man. That’s why I think they’ve taken to him really well.
“You saw when he scored (against Yeovil) that they were all around him, ruffling his hair up and things, so the first team players are taking to him.
“That’s a great opportunity for Sam to stay in the squad and try and get more minutes.”
Dodd, left, has overseen a rush of players that have progressed quickly from the youth side through to the first team.
He believes that a new generation of players at Saints are inspired by the way Mauricio Pochettino has backed young talent.
“Sam Gallagher is in the first team so we would miss him, simple as that, but we were all made up and we were very lucky that Sam had a great performance in the first team. He’s the shining light for the boys,” said Dodd.
“We’ve had the likes of Luke (Shaw) and Calum (Chambers) and James (Ward-Prowse) and Harrison (Reed) and Sam now is setting the bar for our boys. “They have got to step up to it if they want to move into the under-21s or the first team.”
Gallagher is hoping for another start sooner rather than later after his appearance against Arsenal which won plenty of praise from Dodd.
“He did fantastic,” said the legendary former right back. “He was asked to occupy their two international centre halves and he could not work any harder.
“He had one great chance in the first half where the keeper’s made a great save and he’s had one where, if he’s being honest, he probably would put away nine out of ten but it just went the other side of the post.
“It was a great first start for him and the manager had the belief to put him in, which is just immense against a team that is top of the table. “That tells you what the manager thinks of Sam and how he’s progressed.”