SAINTS boss Russell Martin was proud of Will Smallbone's performance against Birmingham, which came following abuse on social media.

The Republic of Ireland international deleted his X account after Southampton's 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, following hate by a small section of supporters.

Martin launched an emotional defence of his midfielder ahead of Southampton's trip to Birmingham, admitting that no player would have social media if it was his decision.

Smallbone was faultless at St Andrew's on Saturday, setting up two goals as Saints fought back from 2-1 down to snatch a 4-3 win deep into injury time.

The 24 year old was also unlucky not to score in the first half before being on the receiving end of a tackle from Dion Sanderson, which saw the Blues captain sent off.

After the game, Smallbone was pushed to the front of Southampton's celebrations to deliver Martin's trademark fist pumps to the travelling supporters. 

Speaking to the Daily Echo after the game, Martin admitted: “I am so pleased for Will Smallbone.

READ MORE: Why are Saints conceding so many? Dissecting every opposition goal in tricky spell

"He got two assists in an amazing performance. He has run relentlessly, got kicked a few times and was booed by the home fans, but was applauded by the away fans.

“That means he has played a really good game. For him to have that moment at the end, I feel emotional about it because I am really happy for him. Jack pushed him to go forward.

Daily Echo: Will Smallbone has played 32 league games for Saints this seasonWill Smallbone has played 32 league games for Saints this season (Image: Stuart Martin)

“He is a proper skipper and was incredible against Birmingham. It was a really top performance. Will deserves it. He has been such a good player for us in a few positions this season.

“For him to deal with what he has gone through this week is a testament to him and his character. It also shows how together the boys are. We spoke about it before the game.

"I said to the guys: ‘We have to show a performance that is so together today.’ They had so much fight for each other. I’m thankful that they did that.

"Will is a strong boy who has had a lot of pain to deal with in his young career already. He has grown so much this season.

“He was desperate to play for this club. He went away last season and did well. Now he is back and having an amazing season for us. For him to get that at the end means a lot.”