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22nd Jan 2018

‘He’s a good finisher’ – Mauricio Pellegrino praises Ireland underage star Michael Obafemi

Jack O'Toole

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino praised Ireland U19 striker Michael Obafemi as a good finisher following his Premier League debut against Tottenham on Sunday.

Obafemi, born in Ireland and raised in England, came on for Saints striker Manolo Gabbiadini in the 82nd minute but squandered a late chance to seal a win for Southampton when he was inches away from turning a cross home.

Despite the miss, Pellegrino insists that the 17-year-old is a good finisher, with the Dubliner netting nine goals in 11 appearances for the Saints U-18 team this season.

“I think he’s a really fast player,” said Pellegrino in his post-match interview.

“I think the spirit is the most important quality but also he’s a good finisher and I observed that their back four was really high and he will have some chances.

“He was there really close but it’s the beginning of his career, still he has to grow a lot but to us, that we have had a good history with our home-grown players, Michael is one more.”

Obafemi revealed that he thought he would be playing with the U18 side on Saturday but that Pellegrino pulled him aside and informed him that he would be training with the first-team squad instead.

“I can’t stop here, this is just the start of what I hope is my career,” he said after the match.

“I was nervous but the welcome from the supporters was brilliant and the senior guys told me to just relax and prove myself. I want to move on from here and keep working hard.

“I am very thankful to all the staff and club for helping to make this happen. I came in on Saturday thinking that I would be playing for the U18s. The manager stopped me and said that I would be training instead and would maybe be in the first-team squad; it was confirmed later on in the afternoon.

“When the chance came, I should have used my left foot but I hope I will get another opportunity to prove I can make it at this level.”

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