WILL Smallbone has shed light on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s importance behind the scenes at Saints.

The captain’s future is up in the air as he is about to enter the final 12 months of his contract and is yet to state his desire to remain at St Mary’s.

And Smallbone, who signed a new four-year deal last week, revealed how important Hojbjerg was in helping him transition into the first team.

The Danish international used to chat with Saints’ academy lad outside the club’s cryotherapy chamber, where the duo would go through clips of footage.

“As an Under-23 it was really good having him give me advice and help me with my game,” Smallbone told the Daily Echo.

“As I’ve transferred into the first team he has been great with giving me different pieces of advice on the pitch to help me deal with certain situations.

Daily Echo: Pierre-Emile HojbjergPierre-Emile Hojbjerg

“He tells me where I need to be in certain situations and about being a tough-tackler off the ball.

“They are things he’s really good at, so I want to try and implement that into my own game.”

Both Tottenham and Everton are said to be interested in signing Hojbjerg this summer.

Saints have placed a £35million price tag on the 24-year-old which they believe reflects his age, the fact he’s their captain and his desire to play Champions League football.

Asked whether the St Mary’s hierarchy should be doing all they can to convince Hojbjerg to remain on the south coast, Smallbone made it clear everyone’s focus is on their trip to Norwich.

“That’s [Hojbjerg’s future] between Pierre and the club, I can’t really say much on it,” added Smallbone. “He’s a very good player and he’s helped me a lot as I’ve come into the squad.

“We are just looking forward to the season starting against Norwich.”

As well as looking up to Hojbjerg, Smallbone has formed a relationship with Saints striker Shane Long.

Daily Echo: Will Smallbone and Shane LongWill Smallbone and Shane Long

Smallbone, who has represented the Republic of Ireland at youth level, hopes to one day emulate Long by becoming a regular selection for their national side.

Saints’ midfielder said: “It’s a massive dream of mine to go on and become a full international.

“To have people like Michael [Obafemi] and Shane in the team who have both played for Ireland is really helpful.

“Longy’s been there ages and to have him next to me in the dressing room is great because it means I can learn off him.

“He’s a good guy and he’s been helping me through the games to keep me calm so that I can show what I’m capable of.”