Armani Little says he’s ready for the challenge ahead after he penned his first professional contract with Southampton on Tuesday.
The 18 year-old midfielder, a mainstay of Anthony Limbrick’s Under-18 side this season, committed his future to the club less than 24 hours after Saints lifted the Under-21s Premier League Cup in front of over 12,000 fans at St Mary’s.
And having made the breakthrough into Martin Hunter’s squad this term before injury struck, Little now has his sights trained on progressing even further in the next 36 months.
“It’s massive for confidence. They’ve given me a good three years to develop and try to boost on to the 21s and then into the first team, so it’s a great boost of confidence, and I’m ready to do it,” he told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“It’s a harder and higher level to play at and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a great experience playing with older players, playing at the bigger stadiums and stuff, it’s brilliant.
“It’s a great group of lads, and a good team, we get on with each other, so it’s really good.”
Little has worn the captain’s armband for the Under-18s this year, and reckons the role has brought out the best in him, adding another facet to his growing footballing repertoire.
“It’s an honour. It’s a really great experience to lead the team out,” he said. “When we played in the Youth Cup, leading the team out here at St Mary’s – it’s just brilliant, it’s a great honour to have.
“I’d say it’s brought me out a bit as a character, because obviously as a captain you have to be loud and encouraging and stuff, so it’s bringing me out as a person on and off the pitch.”
Injury has kept Little out of action for almost two months now, but the midfielder says he is nearing a return to action.
Watching the cup final on Monday night was difficult, he admitted, but he’s already focussed on helping the club replicate that success next season.
“It’s getting there. I’ve been out for like eight weeks now, but I’m getting stronger, so I’m looking forward to being back.
“It was really hard just watching it. Brilliant for the lads, I’m really happy that they won, but it was hard for me just watching. I really wanted to play out there.
“I’d like to think I would have been in contention of playing and being in the squad.
“We want to do the same again and win the 21s cup again next year, and do well in the league again like we’re doing now.
“Just get that shirt number, every week in, week out, and then pushing on into training with the first team and being around them.”