ACADEMY graduate Sam McQueen is hoping that he has impressed Claude Puel sufficiently to compete with Ryan Bertrand and Matt Targett when they return from injury.

McQueen was drafted into the Saints team at left-back with first choices Targett and Bertrand out injured.

The 21-year-old, who has been converted from a wide midfielder to a full-back by Puel, has not looked out of his depth and has impressed with a series of mature performances.

And now, after three successive starts, McQueen is reluctant to let go of his place in the team with his rivals nearing a return from the sidelines.

“You just have to worry about what’s right in front of you, but I would hope that I would still stay with the first team and hopefully still get some game time,” he said.

“I need to try and impress as much as I can in the games that I get, so hopefully if I get any more chances I need to do my absolute best.

“I need to get forward as much as I can, defend well and do the things that the manager’s asked.

“I need to try and put myself in a position to be selected. It’s up to him [Puel], but I need to do everything I can to try and put myself forward.”

The Southampton-born man has given his all during a dream run in the team and admits that his “desire” to play is pushing him through the physical aches and pains that come with a hectic run of games.

It all started with a daunting full debut against Inter Milan at the San Siro, before starting his first Premier League game at Manchester City last Sunday.

He then played the full game against Sunderland in the EFL Cup victory on Wednesday night.

“I’m very eager to [impress],” he said. “It’s tough when you’re not used to playing games so regularly.

“It’s all been new to me playing games every three days, with the 23s it’s not so regular.

“It’s been a challenge to make sure I’m ready physically. The desire to do it is what gets you through the physical pain almost.

“I’m doing everything I can to try and impress and to try and keep the manager’s mind.”

Jose Fonte revealed that he had been surprised at how well McQueen, who was a pupil at Mountbatten School in Romsey, has coped with being thrown in the team.

McQueen always backed himself to do well, but says that a big factor in surviving is having the right mentality to thrive in such high-pressured matches.

“I’ve probably surprised myself a little bit,” he said. “I know I’m capable but it’s a mental thing when you step up into first team football.

“There are so many players in the world. There are so many players in academies in England that have got the potential and the ability. The main deciding factor is mentality. Everyone will say that.

“I’ve surprised myself in the way that I’ve been able to deal with it, but ability-wise and technically I know I’ve got the ability and I’ve got that to be able to do it.”