Saints will devote time to continuing the development of their young players during the remainder of the season.

An FA Cup defeat at Sunderland on Saturday has left Saints without that much more to play for over the last three months of the campaign.

With just 12 league games now remaining in that time and, in reality, a finish between seventh and ninth in the offing, what has up until now been a fantastic season is facing a serene finale.

Saints assistant manager, Jesus Perez, believes that the remainder of the campaign can be used to try and bring through the club’s young talent.

“Still playing well, still winning games and help the young players to improve,” said Perez of the club’s aims for the last few months.

“They have a massive future during this year and for the next seasons so this is the target for our club.

“Our club is growing up, is moving, so we have to be proud and happy how our players are doing so far and hopefully for the next games.”

The FA Cup loss at the Stadium of Light saw another ex Saints academy player make his senior debut.

Midfielder Sam McQueen, 19, became the tenth ex-academy man to feature in the Saints first team this season following in the footsteps of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Lloyd Isgrove, Harrison Reed, Jake Sinclair, Omar Rowe and Sam Gallagher.

Southampton-born McQueen was introduced eight minutes from the end of the tie.

The Sunderland loss marked the end of a busy eight days for Saints after a home game against Stoke and another at Hull last Tuesday.

But Perez was adamant in the face of staunch questioning from the press that Mauricio Pochettino’s team selection was correct.

“Always we are doing the same – after the last game we were without players, we assess our players and we decided the best team to play,” he said.

“Obviously it was a tough game against Hull and we played away as well in bad conditions and came late back to home. Some of the players weren’t fully recovered and we decided the best players to play.

“For us every single player is important and useful for us. It doesn’t matter who is inside of the pitch.

“When we decide to play with one or another player, it is because we trust them, they trust us and support us ... so it’s nothing to complain against.”