Ralph Hasenhuttl has revealed Josh Sims’ hard graft in training has shifted the Southampton youngster’s career back into gear.
Sims toasted his first Premier League start of the season by laying on Nathan Redmond’s first goal in Saints’ 3-1 win over Wolves on Saturday.
The academy graduate’s early promise had stalled to the point that Sky Bet Championship club Reading even sent him back to Saints from a loan stint in January.
Hasenhuttl jumped at the chance to work with the pacy 22-year-old though, with that effort bearing fruit in Saturday’s pivotal performance at St Mary’s.
“It seems that he had to have some time to impress me, and he’s shown me the qualities I need for my game,” said Hasenhuttl.
“So then I don’t care if he was a young player or if he was on loan or something like that.
“He had a chance to score and so that’s something else for him to keep working on, his finishing.
“But I think the system’s perfect for him.
“And he’s not so easy to defend, because he’s small, quick and has good movement.
“I wanted to give him the chance to play.
“It was really a very difficult decision to leave Oriol [Romeu] out, because he has played three fantastic games.
“But the younger guys showed they were ready for the start, and to have that experience on the bench is a good thing.”
Hasenhuttl has transformed Saints’ fortunes since taking the St Mary’s helm in December.
Mark Hughes could only muster three wins in 22 Premier League matches before being sacked, while no-nonsense Austrian Hasenhuttl has already bagged eight in 18.
Saints are now on the brink of top-flight safety, with Hasenhuttl simply improving the players who were available to him on his arrival.
The taskmaster coach insisted he will only select on training-ground form, in a bid to hand anyone at St Mary’s a route to the first XI.
Sims capped his November 2016 Premier League debut with a first-minute assist for Charlie Austin’s decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Everton.
Unable to realise that potential, Sims would doubtless have returned to St Mary’s from his unsuccessful Reading stint in low spirits.
Saints’ proactive new coach saw the raw materials to shape him back into an attacking midfield threat however, and now Sims appears primed to thrive.
“The important thing for the players is to see that if they train well during the week they have the chance to play at the weekend,” said Hasenhuttl.
“If they are not showing me during the week then they are not in my first XI. So that’s what it’s about.
“Tactically for sure there’s not a lot that I’ll change.
“But if you get a chance to train with this team, and you show up, then you’ll get a chance to play.”
Wolves are now determined to stave off any extended hangover from their crushing 3-2 extra-time FA Cup semi-final defeat to Watford, and seal seventh spot in the Premier League.
“We have to move on and try to finish the season well,” Dendoncker told Wolves’ official website.
“We said to each other in the week that the semi-final is behind us.
“I don’t think we played a bad game but we have to look at ourselves.”
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