THE man who handed Jay Rodriguez his first professional contract on £100-aweek has backed the Saints striker to flourish in the Premier League .

Steve Cotterill was in charge at Burnley when he spotted Rodriguez playing in the youth team as a 15- year-old and immediately drafted him into his first team training squad.

Cotterill wasted no time in getting Rodriguez to sign a professional contract once he was 17 – and has been delighted at his progress with the Clarets and his then club record £7m move to Saints.

The former Nottingham Forest boss cannot speak highly enough of Rodriguez the player or the person and has no doubts whatsoever that he will be a fantastic acquisition for Saints.

He said: “I first saw Jay when he was playing in Burnley’s youth team and he was about 15.

“He was quite a tall, skinny boy and hadn’t really filled out.

“I thought straightaway he had promise and brought him straight in to train with the first team and he fitted in very comfortably.

“He has always been a fantastic boy, very level headed, always wanted to learn.

“Jay wants to be a really good player and he is prepared to work hard to achieve that.

“He would always stay back after training to work on things and he has always struck a lovely ball and always been a threat in the air with really good heading ability.

“I always had a gut feeling from the first time I saw him that Jay was going to make it to the top level and do well there.

“Right now he will be finding there is a step up in level but Jay will play in the Premier League regularly and do very well.

“I am sure of that.

“It has been a wonderful achievement b y Southampton to get into P r e m i e r League so quickly again.

“You have to say that Nicola Cortese and Nigel Adkins have both done a great job and I would say their judgement in Jay will prove to be right.

“He is a hard working boy and he will do well for Southampton.

“He will enjoy life on the south coast and it will only be a matter of time before he starts to really perform and you see the best of him.”

Cotterill knows Rodriguez’s family well and says their influence has developed a lovely person as well as a good footballer.

He believes that will also stand him in good stead to succeed on the pitch.

“He comes from a wonderful family background with no pretence at all,” said Cotterill.

“I imagine they wouldn’t have changed one bit with Jay being in Premier League.

“I gave Jay his first professional contract.

“At Burnley we didn’t have much money so it was about £100-a-week.

“I’m sure he is earning a lot more now but he is the type of lad it won’t affect.

“He has been brought up the right way, he is very polite.

“I really cannot speak highly enough of him and his family.”

Rodriguez has had a tough baptism at Saints, and there has been some questioning as to whether he is really suited to playing on the left side where he has found himself.

Cotterill has no doubts he can play there.

“Jay can play a variety of roles – down the middle, just off the striker, wide left,” he said.

“If they play enough balls to the back post then Jay will prove very effective.

Rickie Lambert of course is excellent at that as well but he has more experience than Jay and it’s only a matter of time before he comes good for Southampton.”