Ronald Koeman has praised Jay Rodriguez after he made his first start for Southampton in seven months at Aston Villa on Saturday.
The 26-year-old England international has endured a nightmare two years at St Mary’s having suffered a long-term cruciate knee ligament injury at Manchester City in April 2014.
Rodriguez’s return was then scuppered by a foot problem which also required surgery, while he has been busy working on his fitness levels in recent weeks to try and play a Premier League game before the end of the season.
And, having featured in two Under-21 fixtures and also making two appearances off the bench, Saints’ boss Koeman felt the trip to Villa at the weekend was the ideal chance to throw him back into the first team.
Rodriguez got 70 minutes under his belt and linked with Republic of Ireland international Shane Long in the 4-2 win.
Koeman said: “Everybody knows Jay played twice in the under-21s and in the last two matches he came from the bench and I think it was really today the last step he makes by starting.
“Normally itÂ’s a player who can score goals and I think he did a good job together with Shane.
“After 35 minutes I changed his position to the left and what he needs is game time.
“Of course I think it was a good opportunity today to start with Jay.”