Saints' fringe players have chance to shine
With a summer of such upheaval, several players leaving and a new manager at the helm, this might be the perfect time for Southampton's forgotten men to stake their claim.
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Saints entertain Bayer Leverkusen in their showpiece and final preseason friendly on Saturday before thoughts turn to Liverpool and the return of the Premier League -- but who might come in from the cold?
Billy Sharp/Emmanuel Mayuka
With Rickie Lambert having departed and Jay Rodriguez still in the treatment room, the role of backup to new striker Graziano Pelle is still well and truly up for grabs. Sam Gallagher played the role well towards the end of last season under Mauricio Pochettino, but was left out of a recent friendly by Ronald Koeman.
A lot of Southampton supporters believe Sharp should be given the chance to prove himself, having never featured for the club in the Premier League despite a big contribution in the Championship promotion season. Mayuka has proved to be a disappointing signing but his pace could be used wide in a 4-3-3.
Welsh winger Isgrove had appeared to be one of the academy graduates that had missed the boat first-team-wise, reaching the ripe old age of 21 without seeing much senior action. His loan at Peterborough United last season would have appeared to have indicated the end to his time at St Mary's but it looks like that opinion might have been hasty. Isgrove has featured heavily in preseason friendlies so far under Koeman and been extremely impressive in the wide attacking role. Having been rewarded with a new contract, it would seem that this might be a new start for the winger.
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The Uruguayan has not exactly been away from the limelight, but enters his third season at Saints having ambled his way through the first two. There have been glimpses of brilliance from Ramirez and his talent is plain to see, but a combination of injuries and lacklustre performances have seen him struggle to nail down a regular starting spot. With the right application I am certain he could shine in the Premier League, and perhaps just needs a manager to show a little faith in him.
With the club looking short at centre-half and Koeman's habit of going with youth, Jack Stephens might be the next from the academy to get a shot at the first team. Stephens had a period on loan with Swindon Town last season and their fans were desperate for him to go back to the County Ground.
Saturday's return to the St Mary's stadium is likely going to give us a few pointers as to how Pochettino's fringe players might now feature in the pecking order under Koeman. This has the potential to be an exciting season, despite the departures of key stars.