JOSH Sims insists he is ready to make a big impact in Saints’ scrap for Premier League survival.

An “awkward and unusual” chipped cartilage injury in the 20-year-old’s left knee, which had to be operated on, came at a bad time, keeping him out of first-team action for nearly nine months after making an eye-catching breakthrough last season.

But, now, after a long rehabilitation period Sims is champing at the bit to impress further in the first-team, having had a telling impact as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Burnley on Saturday.

“I’ve been out injured for a while so I’m just getting back to full fitness. It’s been hard watching it while I’ve been injured because I feel like I can make an impact,” he said.

“Hopefully I can start to show the manager what I can do when I come off the bench. It’s down to myself really to take the opportunities when I come on.

“It’s been difficult for me. We’re nearly into the end period of the season now and I’ve only just started playing. But that’s obviously down to the injuries.

“This season has been hard for me, but I’ve got to get through it now and look at next season really.

“I need to get ready to start strongly next season, but we’ve got a few games left and hopefully I can make an impact towards the end of the season and keep us up. That’s the main thing.”

The academy graduate played 13 games for the first-team last season, but was ruled out with injury for more than seven months after a freak incident in training.

Sims’ breakthrough campaign included an assist for Charlie Austin’s winner 41 seconds in to the 1-0 victory over Everton at St Mary’s on his debut in November 2016.

He also set-up Shane Long for the winning goal at Anfield in the League Cup final second-leg.

Following a heady period, a frustrated Sims had keyhole surgery on his left knee to rectify the issue and knew he’d have to start from scratch to get back into the first-team picture, especially with a new manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, to impress.

He said: “I chipped my cartilage in training. It was an impact injury. It’s a real awkward and unusual injury, so I had to have keyhole surgery in my knee. It was quite a big operation.

“It was at the front on my left knee, so I had keyhole there. I don’t feel anything now, so it’ all good. All the way through rehab it was always really positive, I didn’t have any setbacks.

“It came at an awkward time for me. I was doing well and played quite a bit of first-team football and did well when I got the opportunity.

“The injury came at a bad time for me but you can’t do anything about injuries, it’s one of those things in football.

“With the change in manager it was always going to be a clean slate for everyone. Of course, it was an awkward one for me and a hard one to take considering where I was at the time.

“But that’s all in the past now and I can look forward to the games coming up.”

Saints are out of the relegation zone on goal difference alone with ten games remaining in the league and are facing a season-defining period.

Pellegrino’s strugglers face second-to-bottom Stoke at home this Saturday, before trips bottom-half rivals Newcastle and West Ham United.

“We’ve got some really important games coming up, so if I can ultimately help the team stay up that’s what I want to do,” Sims said.

“From a personal point of view a lot of my work is looking to next season but, of course, the games now are massive so I’ve just got to do my best if I get the opportunity.”

Sims was introduced soon after Ashley Barnes gave Burnley the lead at Turf Moor on Saturday and he had a instant impact. His high energy and running gave Saints a whole new dimension.

“When you come on, a player like me just has to be positive and just try and make an impact,” Sims said.

“It all comes from myself really. I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do. I know how I can change a game, so I’ve just got to do my best when I come on.

“When you come off the bench you’ve just got to do your best and try and make an impact.

“I think I did that, so I was happy with my performance. At the end of the day, the points are what matter and we’re lucky we got the goal at the end to get the point.”

While next season is very much on Sims’ mind, he is motivated for the battle ahead, so that he is able to play top-flight football next term.

He said: “Of course, the situation we’re in, it’s a strange one. I don’t think we deserve to be down here.

“It’s a difficult one and I do think we’re too good to be down here. We can’t do anything about it now and the games coming up we’ve got to make sure we do well and win.

“Everyone would rather be playing Premier League and it suits my game especially to be playing in the Premier League.

“It means a lot to me. I’ve been here along time now. I’ve come up through the academy and it’s not very nice seeing the club in position it’s in.

“But if everyone pulls together, I have no doubt we’ll stay up.”