SAINTS manager Russell Martin was "really pleased" for Sekou Mara after his brace against Watford and added: "That is why we were so desperate to keep him."

The 21 year old scored twice in six minutes against the Hornets on Tuesday evening as Southampton progressed in the FA Cup with a 3-0 win.

Having had limited minutes earlier in the season, Mara has enjoyed a breakout period in recent weeks.

The Frenchman has scored four times in his last six appearances, meaning he has averaged a goal every 73 minutes.

“He is very talented player," Martin told the Daily Echo. "He played on the left, on the right and through the middle. 

“I’m really pleased for him. He is such a laid-back young man and a great person. I really enjoy Sekou’s energy.

"I think sometimes he can look a bit relaxed and languid but he is not - he trains like a beast.

“We show him Adam Armstrong and Che Adams’ recovery runs and make a big deal of this all the time.

Daily Echo: Sekou Mara spoke to the Daily Echo for the first time after his brace against Watford

READ MORE: Sekou Mara 'enjoying' being pushed to improve at Southampton

“You can’t just be a really good footballer, you need more than that. It is impossible to play in this team if you only want to play with the ball.”

Mara was linked with a loan move during the winter window, although Southampton never had any intention of letting the French youth international leave the club in January.

Sheffield United were one of the teams reportedly interested in signing Mara, but the decision was made for him to stay after conversation between himself, his agent and Saints officials.

“Sekou showed a lot of his game against Watford," Martin continued. "That is why we were so desperate to keep him and not let him out on loan.

“He had a lot of interest and a lot of options. It has never been a case of not liking him as a player.

“He has been unfortunate that we have a lot of talented players in his position. One of them has ended up playing on the right wing and scored a lot of goals.

“Sekou wasn’t in as good of a condition as them as a start, it has been about him being so consistent in the way that he trains.

“I have really enjoyed how he has got himself into a good place over the last three months, both physically and mentally. 

“He is reaping the rewards of that when he gets on the pitch and needs to keep doing that to get more minutes.”