SAINTS manager Russell Martin admitted injured Ross Stewart feels he has "let everyone down" but insists the striker will prove himself.

The boss thinks the setback suffered by Stewart, a separate muscle injury that will see him sidelined until at least January, will not significantly alter transfer plans.

Martin said he hopes and believes out-of-contract striker Che Adams will remain at the club until June, rather than move in January, as he outlined the striking plan. 

As well as Stewart, winger Kamaldeen Sulemana is also expected to be out until January with a hamstring injury in a double blow to the club. 

Speaking ahead of the clash with Cardiff City, Martin said: "It's really difficult to see the emotion someone can feel behind closed doors.

Daily Echo: Southampton manager Russell Martin during the Championship match between Southampton and Bristol City at St Mary's Stadium. Photo by Stuart Martin.

"It's the greatest privilege as a leader when someone can be vulnerable in front of you. I am so upset for Ross, especially.

"Kamaldeen I am gutted for, as I felt he was just starting to show real glimpses of what we want him to do. He'll be frustrated.

"But Ross, after nine or 10 months out and fighting so hard to be here, feels like he has let us down and he hasn't."

Martin continued: "He just hasn't, he's been amazing energy-wise and as a person, the way he has interacted with staff and rehab, and what we see from him training.

"His overriding feeling in this moment was not about himself but feeling like he has let us down. Not one bit, not one bit.

"He is going to be an amazing signing for this club but we have to get through this tough period. Everything is defined by how you come through tough moments.

"Your career and the success you have is defined by what you overcome and Ross is really resilient so long-term, he will be really good.

"In the short term, we need to help him and make him understand that he has not let anyone down. We have a group that is so together to help him."

Posed with the question over whether it was a risk to sign Stewart, who had been out since January following Achilles surgery, Martin was defiant. 

"He's not a short-term signing," he said. "We accepted he was injured but we thought he was the best. When we looked at all the options, he was number one.

Daily Echo: Southampton's Ross Stewart during the Championship match between Southampton and West Brom at St Mary's Stadium. Photo by Stuart Martin.

"It took a while because we were exploring the extent of his injury and how long it would take to come back from that.

"There were certainly a lot of other players on the list but me and Jason (Wilcox) spoke at length for a long time, with Darren (Mowbray) and the rest of the recruitment team.

"We just circled back round and came back to Ross every single time, despite the injury, we felt he was the best option.

"When you see him on the training pitch and what he has to offer, we still feel that. We're fortunate we have two proven strikers at this level and another young, talented one.

"I don't think it affects too much what we want to do as we have some really good options in that position. Ross is a long-term signing and will eventually prove why he's a good signing."

Scotland international Adams looks a likely departure from the club with his current deal set to expire next summer, despite being offered a new three-year deal in August. 

Daily Echo: Southampton's Che Adams during the Championship match between Southampton and West Brom at St Mary's Stadium. Photo by Stuart Martin.

The 27 year old has not scored since the summer window closed and has started only a third of the club's Championship games this campaign.

However, when asked if his plan is clear when the January window opens, Martin said: "I'm clear that he needs to be in the team, play in the team and score to help the team.

"He has found it difficult to get into the XI recently. However, like a number of players, he feels he cannot have too much to argue with as the team is performing and 10 unbeaten.

"In that situation, you are sitting there and hoping the guy in your position doesn't have a good game, you want the team to win but you want an opportunity. 

"If any footballer tells you differently, they are fibbing. One of my best mates at Norwich played in the same position as me and we roomed together. 

"When he was ahead of me and I was on the bench, I didn't want him to have a good game. Sorry, Steven Whittaker, but he knows that and would have felt exactly the same."

Daily Echo: Southampton manager Russell Martin during the Championship match between Southampton and West Brom at St Mary's Stadium. Photo by Stuart Martin.

Martin continued: "Unfortunately for Che, one of his best mates is Adam Armstrong and he's been producing a lot so he has had to be patient.

"There is a lot on the line for Che. He has not signed a contract here which you have to respect, but he is out of contract in the summer.

"There will be some big emotions around that, including fear, and you have to use that fear to kick on and I think he will.

"The plan is for him to help us as much as possible is to help us as much as possible between now and the end of the season.

"Unless something extroadinary comes up for him then we will have to deal with it, but I hope and think he will be here until the end of the season. 

"If you are in a team that achieves something special, everyone wins. Everyone at the club. So that is the aim."

Young Saints striker Dom Ballard, who was nominated for Premier League 2's player of the year last season with the under-21s, could have been in line for a chance.

However, the 18 year old England youth star suffered a patella injury on loan with Reading last Saturday and is set to miss the rest of the season. 

Martin admitted: "Unfortunately for Dom, there may have been an opportunity with the latest injury to Ross but he's injured for a long time as well.

"I spoke to him last Saturday after he was injured, I rang him, and I look forward to catching up with him again when he's back in. It's tough."