FULL-BACK Kyle Walker-Peters admitted it was hard for him to comment on the rejected bid for Saints skipper James Ward-Prowse but added: “Of course, I hope he stays.”

The Daily Echo understands Saints turned down a £25million offer for their captain from Aston Villa, with transfer speculation having linked Ward-Prowse to the Birmingham side all summer.

And while Walker-Peters admitted “teams are always going to be looking” at the England midfielder, he is hopeful the 26-year-old remains at St Mary’s.

Put to the defender that Saints would want to keep hold of their best players amid the interest in Ward-Prowse, Walker-Peters replied: “Yeah. It’s hard for me to speak on that, obviously.

“Prowsey is a top player, teams are always going to be looking at him but that’s down to the club.

“Of course, I hope he stays.”

Ward-Prowse has been on the books at Saints since the age of eight and made 322 senior appearances for the south coast club in all competitions.

He signed a fresh five-year contract with Saints 12 months ago.

The Daily Mail this weekend reported Villa will make another effort to sign Ward-Prowse in the coming days.

A knee injury had kept the midfielder out of Saints’ two friendly fixtures against Cardiff and Swansea, during the team’s pre-season trip to Wales.

But Walker-Peters insisted both the club captain and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had been working on gelling the squad together, ahead of the new campaign.

He added: “I think we had that unity anyway but the gaffer and Prowsey have made sure we keep that unity and keep gelling as a squad, even off the pitch.

“It (the trip) has been great. It’s been good to get minutes against some good teams but the main thing is working on how the gaffer wants us to play and we are slowly getting there, slowly getting better."