WILL Smallbone labelled his Premier League debut as a “dream come true”.

His surprise inclusion in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s starting XI came just over a month after he made his first-team bow against Huddersfield in the FA Cup third round.

However, the academy lad said to finally play in the top flight is something he wasn’t expecting so soon.

Smallbone said: “To play in the Premier League is something that I’ve always dreamed of growing up.

“So to be able to finally do it was very good for me. It was my 20th birthday on Friday and I couldn’t have celebrated it in a better way.”

Smallbone didn’t find out he was playing until the morning of the match.

This meant he was able to get a decent night’s sleep, although he went to bed with the faintest idea that Saturday could be his lucky day.

He added: “I found out that I was playing Saturday morning, although I had a little inkling that I might start on Friday.

“I just tried to stay calm and ready because this is something I’ve always wanted to do.

“As soon as I found out that I was playing I told my parents but luckily they were already coming anyway. They were buzzing to be here to witness it.”

The central midfielder, who can play with both, almost capped his top-flight debut off with a dream goal.

He picked the ball up on the edge of Villa’s box, set himself up, and then drilled an effort towards Pepe Reina’s net.

However, it took a deflection off Tyrone Mings and then cannoned off the post.

Reflecting on almost scoring, he said: “To be fair I didn’t set it out where I wanted to, but it took a little deflection and I thought it was going to creep in at the end.”

Next up for Saints is a trip to West Ham’s London Stadium on Saturday.

They now have a sizeable gap over the relegation battlers, however, Smallbone believes there isn’t any time for complacency.

“We aren’t really looking at that. We just take each game as it comes and try to get three points.

“I think it’s good we went out there and beat them [Aston Villa], but I also think we could have got a few more in the first half to make it more comfortable.

“We continued playing how well in the second half and managed to get the second goal right at the end.

“It was a very important win so that we could get back on track and return to winning ways.”