RALPH Hasenhuttl admits he’s found it tough being away from his players but also said he couldn’t be prouder of them.

Hasenhuttl’s squad have had to follow strict fitness programmes away from Staplewood since mid-March.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Saints’ manager said: “It’s not easy. The only contact we have is through video messages and phone calls.

“Facetime is nice because you can see if they have put some weight on around their face or something like this!

“I like seeing them on the video – especially as they haven’t had their hair cut!

“They are enjoying it, I think. We are all looking forward to seeing each other again and, hopefully, that will be as soon as possible.

“I think they have been very disciplined and they are following the schedule we have given them.

“It’s not easy to find the motivation when you don’t have a target and that’s what separates this break to a summer break; you know that you have to be fit and 100 per cent focused by July.

“It’s easier to lift yourself and this is different for the guys at the moment. But they have been good, and I am sure they can’t wait to be back out on the pitch.”

The players have been split into smaller groups and it’s been said that James Ward-Prowse sits on top of the leader board for the quickest 5km run.

Hasenhuttl remained coy when asked who else has been standing out but did say he would be ‘surprised’ if any members of his squad return to Staplewood undercooked.

“I think everybody knows that Prowsey is always the guy who covers the most distance,” Hasenhuttl added.

“We have a lot of very, very fit players and they are working hard to stay fit.

“They all know we have a very short pre-season - if you want to call it that - to prepare for the last nine games.

“We have to have a good level for when we return, and this is what I expect from them. Anything less would surprise me.”

Hasenhuttl also revealed that Nathan Redmond has made a recovery from the muscular injury that prevented him from playing before the lockdown.

However, Saints’ manager will proceed with caution before rushing him back.

Hasenhuttl said: “For him, it was absolutely an advantage that we had this break.

“We must pay attention to when we return to training that we don’t overload him. We will have to be careful.”