Claude Puel says he was hired by Southampton on the condition he would get the club back to developing their academy stars into first-teamers.
Josh Sims appears to be the latest future star off the Saints’ conveyor belt after an impressive debut against Everton last weekend, setting up Charlie Austin’s winner and earning the man-of-the-match award after former boss Ronald Koeman was sent packing from St Mary’s Stadium with a 1-0 defeat.
Koeman said he was “not impressed” by the Saints’ youth team when he was manager earlier this year, but those words came back to haunt him.
And Puel’s claim that he was instructed to focus on home-grown talents when hired suggests a reportedly frosty relationship between Koeman and Southampton officials was indeed strained.
“Southampton chose me at the beginning of the season to help continue the development of young players,” the Frenchman said ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.
“It was a condition and I think it’s important for me to respect this. I like this also, because in all my different [clubs] it was always important for me to develop and start with new players every time.
“Like Josh against Everton, it’s not a problem for me because I like this and I think it’s important also for the club and for the future.”
Puel shrugged off reported interest from Liverpool in Virgil van Dijk as “speculation” before confirming that Dusan Tadic will not be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park as he continues his recovery from a broken nose.
“When he comes back we need him at a strong physical level,” Puel said. “In training and in the first game he will wear a mask, but it’s a beautiful mask!”
Southampton also confirmed that they had concluded an internal investigation into assistant manager Eric Black’s involvement in an investigation into alleged corruption in football.
Black was filmed by an undercover Daily Telegraph reporter allegedly suggesting a colleague at a different club might be persuaded to pass on information about players for payment.
A club statement read: “Despite numerous requests to provide the club with any evidence relating to the allegation against Mr Black, none has been forthcoming.
“There is no evidence of any wrongdoing, and as such, the club now considers the matter closed.
“Eric Black retains the full support of Southampton Football Club.”