With Jay Rodriguez expected to return to the Southampton first team next season, Nigel Adkins says he will be "like a new signing".
Former Southampton manager Nigel Adkins believes Jay Rodriguez will be "like a new signing" for the club next season after recovering from a serious knee injury.
The 25-year-old recently returned to training following more than a year on the sidelines with an anterior cruciate ligament problem.
Rodriguez had been strongly linked with a move away from St Mary's Stadium at the end of the campaign, but the former Burnley man - brought to Southampton by Adkins in 2012 - signed a new four-year contract earlier this month.
"He's been out for a long period of time with his cruciate injury, which he seems to be fully over now," Adkins told Perform at an event to mark his appointment as an ambassador for the Football Foundation, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary.
"To get a long-term contract, it will definitely be a fresh start and he'll be like a fresh player for the current manager.
"He's a talented boy, he became an England international, so it will be like getting a new signing."
Southampton head into Sunday's season-closing clash at Manchester City with a chance of ensuring UEFA Europa League football for next season, but will have to muscle their way past Tottenham or Liverpool - one and two points ahead respectively - to achieve a top-six finish.
Adkins, though, does not believe a fit Rodriguez would necessarily have ensured Southampton of a European berth by this point.
"There's always going to be ifs, buts and maybes, but the fact of the matter is - other players have come in and done really well," he added. "You look at [Sadio] Mane, for example. At the weekend, he scored the quickest hat-trick in Premier League history and he played in the same position where Jay would normally play.
"When he's fit next year, he'll be wanting to be a revelation for them again."
Since its launch in 2000, the Football Foundation, which is funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and the government through Sport England, has supported 13,000 grassroots sport projects with grants worth £520m and leveraged £736m in additional partnership funding, thereby delivering schemes with a total project cost of £1.24bn.