RALPH Hasenhuttl has expressed his gratitude towards Theo Walcott for taking a backseat in Saints’ season so far.

With Saints hosting Walcott’s last club, Everton, tomorrow afternoon (kick off 3pm), attention turned to 32-year-old Walcott who has only made nine appearances in the Premier League this season.

Nearing the end of a senior career that started 16 years ago when he made his debut for Saints as a 16-year-old, Walcott’s manager believes the fact that the former Arsenal star has made no complaints about his situation is testament to his character.

Speaking about the elder contingent amongst the Saints squad, Hasenhuttl stated: “There’s no doubt that experienced players have their role to play in the club.

“I think it’s important for them to know that when they can see the end of the road, then you have a different role to play.

“It means sometimes that you are the guy who supports from the bench, or even if you’re not on the bench, show how professional you are.

“This is a way that shows your character and how settled you are as an experienced player who has won everything or had a lot of success in your time.

The Austrian then went on to detail exactly why it was worth keeping veterans amongst the playing squad.

“There comes, for everyone, the moment to step a little bit back and be a different person in the way you are developing the young lads as a player.

“In the end, it’s up to me to decide what I need and what players I want to give a chance.

“The only thing is, that in a 50-50 situation you often choose the younger one because you know he is on the way up and the other one is on the way down.

“You think, ‘OK, I want to help him more than the other one’.

“But there are some moments when you need this experience and that’s the reason why we have this player in our team.

When asked if Walcott understood why playing time was at a premium, Hasenhuttl insisted that the former England international was well aware despite being naturally displeased at not receiving minutes.

“Absolutely,” Hasenhuttl restarted.

“It is not easy for anybody to see somebody else is playing.

“He understands his role and is a smart guy.

“He doesn’t have to show anything because he has shown a lot in his playing career.”