RYAN Bertrand insists Matt Targett has come on “leaps and bounds” under his guidance in the Saints defence.

Targett looked very raw when he played a run of nine games at the start of this season, during a spell when first-choice left back Bertrand was sidelined with a knee injury.

The Saints academy youngster was almost instantly dropped once Bertrand returned, after struggling to deal with the level of the Premier League in his first meaningful spell in Ronald Koeman’s side.

Recently, though, in wins over Watford, West Brom and Manchester United, Bertrand has been playing at left centre-back with Targett just ahead of him at wing-back.

It has meant that the 20-year-old has been through a mini apprenticeship with a fully fledged England international and highly experienced tutor in Bertrand just behind him.

And it has really shown, with the Winchester-born youngster looking far more capable, helping Saints to three wins in four before injury ruled him out against West Ham last weekend.

“He’s doing very well. Matty’s come on leaps and bounds,” said Bertrand. “He’s got stronger and stronger as the games go by.

“Thankfully in this system that we’re playing, it’s nice to see him get a run of games which he thoroughly deserves.”

Targett assisted Shane Long with a superb diagonal ball into the box in the 2-0 win against Watford last month and has helped Saints to five successive clean sheets, with several assured defensive displays.

Bertrand has played at centre-back, left-back and left wing-back lately and has been very impressive in all of the positions.

He is just happy to give Targett that helping hand.

“I want to help out and make sure they have the best game possible,” he said. “Whoever it maybe in front of me, I want them to have a good game.

“It helps because it’s Matty, we have a good relationship anyway. We understand each-others’ football. We’re both in the same position and it’s a good relationship so far.”

The 26-year-old former Chelsea man had ex-England full-back Ashley Cole, who he described him a "fantastic role model", as a mentor at Stamford Bridge and wants to be supportive in the same way to Targett.

“It’s nice to have someone more senior - that’s nice,” he said. “Sometimes it can work the other way.

“You can get the older player that’s a little bit bitter and a bit scared of what’s round the corner, so he wouldn’t really want to help out.

“But when it comes down to people playing, it’s never the players that pick the team, so I’m always fully supportive.”