RALPH Hasenhuttl has admitted that new signing Thierry Small has some “issues with his knee and physical qualities that have to be sorted,” before he can get stuck into Premier League action for Saints.

It’s not a case of doom and gloom though, with the new Saints man having only just turned 17 last month he has plenty of time to grow, develop and reach his lofty potential.

The fact he’s even in with a shout of top-flight action at such an age is testament to the impact he made at Everton, where he became the club’s youngest ever player when handed an FA Cup debut by serial winner Carlo Ancelotti in January.

The explosive full-back has been drafted in to Hasenhuttl’s squad after he rejected professional terms at the Toffees in favour of a move, and the fee of which that will set Saints back could yet be decided in a tribunal.

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Small had his first training sessions with the club this week and Hasenhuttl has offered a briefing on the new man – but made clear that we should likely not expect a first-team debut any time soon.

Speaking ahead of the West Ham Premier League contest, the Austrian boss said: “Yeah, that was the first two sessions he had this week training with the team, it was after a long time where he didn’t train.

“I think after May or something was his last session so we need to take time to get him to the level where the other players are, but what I like about the guy is he’s very positive, very happy to be a part of our session.

Daily Echo: Thierry Small became Everton's youngest ever player when he was handed an FA Cup debut in January (Pic: PA)Thierry Small became Everton's youngest ever player when he was handed an FA Cup debut in January (Pic: PA)

“We will give him the time to work on his deficits and, finally, he is an important alternative for us in the full-back positions.

“Like always when you sign players like him, the medical department is having an eye on him and there are some issues with his knee and his physical qualities that we have to sort before he goes into a Premier League session.”

There’s no doubt that Small will be inspired by what the likes of Tino Livramento has done – only one year his senior – after he usurped Kyle Walker-Peters and made three consecutive starts to begin the 2021-22 Premier League season.

In stature, Small doesn’t resemble his name and he already looks the part of a professional player. Although not the tallest yet, he looks strong and imposing for a full-back.

But, contrary to Livramento’s surprise inclusion which Hasenhuttl stated was on merit alone, the manager explains why it’s important not to rush him.

“A Premier League session is something that is very tough, a lot of duels and the intensity of the sessions is a high one.

“You need to be prepared for it otherwise it will be difficult I think, so we give him this time and I’m sure he will make his progress and then we will work on all the other things we want to work on.”