MANAGER Russell Martin insisted young defender Nico Lawrence has "earned" his new contract at Southampton.

The 21 year old penned a contract extension earlier this month which will keep him at the club until at least 2026.

His new deal has arrived three months after he was recalled from an injury-hit loan spell at League Two Colchester United.

Lawrence has trained regularly with Martin's senior team, while featuring for the under-21s, and was a part of the squad that travelled to Blackburn Rovers this month.

READ: 'Confidence knocked' - Saints defender training up with Martin after nightmare injury

Asked about Lawrence's new deal, Martin told the Daily Echo: "I'm pleased for Nico. He has stepped up over the last couple of months in terms of his fitness and his training habits.

Daily Echo: Nico Lawrence in training with Southampton's first teamNico Lawrence in training with Southampton's first team (Image: Southampton FC)

"We have been really demanding of him. I take the poor kid out for extra sessions most days for more running or football.

"He wasn't in the best shape to give the best version of himself when he came back from his loan at Colchester United.

"He has been injured but he is showing a real willingness and brilliant attitude to learn and play. It's been nice to have him in the building.

"I'm pleased he's got a new contract. He has earned it and now it's up to him to kick on and not accept that this is enough for him.

"If he really wants to kick on again, he has so many tools, physically and technically. The rest is down to him. We will push him as far as we can."

Lawrence joined Saints from non-league Glebe FC in February 2022 and enjoyed a productive loan spell at National League side Torquay last season.