Saints Under-18s coach Jason Dodd is aiming to ensure the side continues to fire on all cylinders in training ahead of their clash with Liverpool at their Kirkby Academy on Saturday.
The youngsters are brimming with confidence as they look to record back-to-back victories when they travel up north, following Saints’ impressive 4-2 win over West Brom last Saturday.
Dodd has insisted that the side are keeping their feet on the ground and maintaining their high level of preparation ahead of the undoubtedly tough test Liverpool will provide in their upcoming Barclays Under-18 Premier League battle.
“It’s just a normal week for us,” Dodd told Saints Player. “Monday morning – education; then we’ve had three really good sessions – still quite intense. The lads have been excellent. We’re continuously working to improve. We challenge them every day and they’re meeting those challenges.
“The First Team are doing fantastically well so it just comes down to us. The First Team players are fantastic around the boys – there’s a real buzz about the place at the moment. We’re lucky that we won at the weekend as well, so we’re on a bit of a high.
“We go into the Liverpool game really looking forward to it. We’re not going to rest our laurels and think, ‘we got a good win’ and, ‘where do we go from here?’
“We want to improve every single player. They can all improve – they can all work harder, they can all get fitter, they can all have a better understanding of how we play. The lads that are doing well are the lads that are consistently doing it. Some of them are a little bit hit and miss, but it’s about them being consistent – and then they get a run in the side.”
Dodd is wary of the threat that a side such as the Reds could pose but believes such clashes act as the perfect tests for the U18s to develop and progress.
“They played Blackburn at the weekend and I think they won 4-2,” the coach continued. “I think they had the young lad (Harry Wilson) who made his debut for Wales in the week and then played for the U18s on Saturday. It tells you that they’re still keeping his feet on the ground. He scored two and by all accounts he was a handful.
“It’s going to be a real test for us but I want these boys to be tested. There’s no point in us cruising through games and playing against opposition that may be a little bit easier for us. The good thing for us is that every game is different. It’s a real test for us but we’re enjoying it.
“These lads know that if they’re performing, Martin [Hunter, Under-21 coach]’s at the games; the Under-21 players – we want to put some pressure on them. If they keep performing week in week out, it means that I’m going to be putting their names forward to Martin every week and they will get their chance.”
Meanwhile, Tom Leggett is relishing the U18s captaincy and is looking to former Saints right-back and captain Dodd as inspiration as he aims to lead his side to success this season.
When asked how it felt to wear the armband, the full-back replied: “It’s an honour. I don’t think it comes with too much extra pressure. I’m doing my job for the team as I expect all the lads to do as well.
“We’ve been picking some good results up but maybe not hitting our best form, so if I can bring up the lads and they can push on as well then I’m sure we’ll keep going in the right direction.
“Doddsy is a great role model. He’s easy to talk to, both him and Paul Williams. All the coaches are very easy to approach and ask for advice. He (Dodd) has been great with me and all the lads, so he’s been a great hand.”
Leggett, who was handed the captaincy at the beginning of the current league campaign, is fixated on ensuring that the U18s remain an organised unit throughout their encounter with Liverpool and believes that if that can be achieved, then so can the desired outcome.
The defender added: “We’ve got to go there with a game plan and everyone can be leaders as well. It’s been one of my targets – to be more vocal on the pitch, be a bit more of a leader. As long as the whole team sticks to the game plan, we’re all organised and we all know what we’re doing, then I’m sure we’ll play well and get a positive result.
“We’ve been working on – throughout the whole season as well, not just this week – that everyone knows their individual jobs, we’re confident in one-on-one defending, but then again, pressing up high up the pitch – that’s the game plan.”