MAURICIO Pellegrino will decide tomorrow whether or not to include Virgil van Dijk in the squad for Saints’ trip to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday.

The central defender played his first game since January on Monday night for the club’s under-23s and now Pellegrino must decide if he’s ready for first team action.

Van Dijk has just come back to the fold after his summer transfer saga, which saw him banished to train alone after asking to leave.

He later handed in a transfer request, but Saints refused to sell and now he’s back with Pellegrino’s men.

The boss said: "Virgil was training well. He played 90 minutes the other day in the reserve game, but tomorrow we will decide [if he'll be involved against Palace]."

On the 26-year-old’s fitness, Pellegrino added: "Hopefully he will be getting better every single week but I am happy with that because it’s not just about Virgil, it’s everybody right now ready to be part of the team."

Van Dijk was made team captain last term after Jose Fonte’s exit to West Ham in January, but after agitating for a move away Pellegrino says it’s something he’d have to earn back.

"For me the captain is someone who the team may decide and something that you have to deserve – not something the manager can give the player to be a captain," he said.

"This is my point of view."

When asked if Van Dijk deserved the captaincy, he said: “Now, when he’s not playing? You cannot be captain if you’re not playing. Obviously Virgil was one of the leaders of the squad last season."

Saints take on a Palace side tomorrow who have just sacked manager Frank de Boer after just 77 days and five competitive games in all competitions in charge.

The former Ajax boss, who has been linked with he Saints job in the past, was replaced by former England manager Roy Hodgson on Tuesday.

Pellegrino, who is also just five games in to his tenure at St Mary's, was surprised at the lack of patience for the departed Dutchman.

He said: "It’s something that we have to survive in our job [as a manager].

"Our job now, it’s not an easy job. How can we validate the work of one colleague in this moment after four (league) games?

"But we have to accept that. Obviously, I don’t like when something like this happens but we have to keep going.

"The results are everything in our life but Crystal Palace have got a good group of players.

"To draw a conclusion in one team, you have to wait, you cannot analyse them after one month, it’s really difficult."