WILL Smallbone's versatility has made a positive impact on Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The academy graduate has featured heavily throughout Project Restart, playing in seven of the nine matches.

"After the game, I think it was Brighton, I was critical with him," Hasenhuttl explained.

"He has some more goals, like Prowsey [James Ward-Prowse] especially with the ball he is fantastic, against the ball he must still learn.

"He was much better [against Sheffield United], I saw a guy who was aggressive, who wins balls.

"After this he put his qualities with the ball on the pitch, I think it was definitely a good performance for him.

"The good thing is that he can play No.10 and No.6, at No.6 he feels a bit more comfortable maybe, but on a No.10 he also can get in the box and create something."

Smallbone has played in the heart of Saints' midfield and also in a more attacking role.

With Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's expected departure, the 20-year-old could slot in alongside James Ward-Prowse.

Hasenhuttl added: "I always speak about players that they should be normally multi-dimensional, that they can also play in different positions.

"The good thing is when you a little bit pay attention to what we do in position that you know exactly what you have to do when you are out of position.

"He has this quality and he must be open-minded - every player has to be open-minded - because sometimes there might be a situation where you find yourself in a different position for a different moment and know what you have to do.

"Will is a big hope for the future. He made as a No.10 also a good step forward, was aggressive, won balls also. As a six he is also calm on the ball.

"I think [against Sheffield United] we saw a very, very grown up performance and something we can build up."