ORIOL Romeu has paid tribute to Saints’ academy after a flurry of graduates have made their way into the matchday squad.

Since Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived at the club in December, he’s dared to look below the first team for players who suit his style of play.

Hasenhuttl has gone on the record as saying that he prefers using youngsters due to their willingness to carry out his instructions.

And Romeu, who came through the ranks at Barcelona, used Callum Slattery as an example of the system working.

Daily Echo: Callum SlatteryCallum Slattery

Slattery has been at Saints since the age of eight and made his first team start in the FA Cup match with Derby, before making his Premier League debut at in the 1-1 draw with Burnley.

Romeu said: “He played against Burnley, which is one of the toughest teams, and you couldn’t tell it was his first Premier League match.

“He is a strong lad, he has good endurance, he fights for the team and he is going to learn a lot of things, but he is on the right path.

“It’s good to see how the young players are doing a good job and you need to give the academy some credit.

“If you are the U14 manager, and players you’ve coached are now in the first team, it shows they are doing the right things.

Daily Echo: Marcus BarnesMarcus Barnes

“It sends the right message to the lads throughout the club, that if they do well and work hard, they are going to get a chance and they are showing they are ready for it which is the main thing.”

As well as Slattery, Marcus Barnes, Kayne Ramsay and Tyreke Johnson have made the step into the first team under Hasenhuttl.

Yan Valery, arguably, has become the example for his former under-23 teammates to follow.
Valery, 19, was given his debut by ex-boss Mark Hughes, but Hasenhuttl has continued to show faith in the Frenchman.

Cedric Soares, who won the European Championship with Portugal in 2016, was shipped out on loan to Inter Milan after failing to dislodge Valery at right back.

However, given the desperate need for results in order to avoid relegation, it’s a risky strategy to deploy.

Every fan wants to see one of their own playing in the first team, but they also want to see their side winning games.

Daily Echo: Yan ValeryYan Valery

It’s this strange paradox that can often plague youngsters trying to break their way into the senior squad.

And by clearing the Saints dressing room of a host of senior players such as Manolo Gabbiadini, Cedric and Wesley Hoedt, there is an emphasis on the stars of the future to fill the void.

But Romeu believes it’s down to the experienced players that remain at the club to make the transition as easy as possible for the academy graduates.

“I think if the young players are coming in, and are mixed with senior players, then it will be easier to get through the tough moments,” Romeu explained.

“They are going to make mistakes, but players who have played more games, also make mistakes and it’s about how they deal with it.

“But by playing and having those chances, they are going to deal with them much better.

“I think everyone around the team, if they see something that can help them, or even me, then I would like them to because that’s the way it has to work.

Daily Echo: Cedric SoaresCedric Soares

“Sometimes you don’t see someone on your back, or you make a mistake, so it’s good to have that feedback and it helps the team.”

Romeu is in a strong position to discuss the pool of talent that is beneath the Saints first team, having dropped down to the U23’s to get some game time.

Hughes, for a reason not known by Romeu, decided to exclude the midfielder from his squad, which prompted him to turn out for Radhi Jaidi’s side.

But, like Jan Bednarek, Jannik Vestergaard and James Ward-Prowse, Romeu’s exile ended when Hasenhuttl stepped through the doors at the Staplewood Campus.

The Spaniard was picked for the Austrian’s first game in charge and, with every game he plays, it makes Hughes’ decision to outcast him look even more absurd than it did when he was in charge.

Daily Echo: Saints boss Ralph HasenhuttlSaints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl

Romeu slots perfectly into Hasenhutt’s system, sitting in front of the back four, which is a system he grew up playing in.

He added: “I mainly played in that position when I was young. I like being there because I think it suits me better than going forward and getting into the box.

“I make better decisions from there, but if I have to play in a two there, then I like that as well.”