FORMER Saints young­ster Thier­ry Small admit­ted it was ‘hard to adapt’ to first-team foot­ball after join­ing the club from Ever­ton at 17 years old.

Small cost Saints an expect­ed sev­en-fig­ure com­pen­sa­tion fee after his 2021 move from Ever­ton, where he reject­ed a first pro deal.

The 19 year old’s time on the south coast was cut short ear­li­er this sea­son when he had his con­tract mutu­al­ly ter­mi­nat­ed.

He soon joined Charl­ton Ath­let­ic in League One, where he has start­ed to find his feet as a pro­fes­sion­al after sev­er­al loan moves away from Southamp­ton.

“The way it came out wasn’t com­plete­ly true – there was a lot of false spec­u­la­tion about the move to Southamp­ton,” the defend­er told Lon­don News Online.

“Going there was just a fam­i­ly deci­sion to bet­ter my career. You have got to take risks – some­times they pay off and some­times they don’t, it’s just part of life.

“It was a good expe­ri­ence, in terms of being around the first-team envi­ron­ment at 17. I don’t think a lot of play­ers would’ve been doing that at my age, so the expe­ri­ence of that was unbe­liev­able.

“It was hard to adapt because I was new to first-team foot­ball. I went from being a schol­ar straight into a first-team envi­ron­ment in the Pre­mier League.

“Tran­si­tion-wise it was a lit­tle hard for me men­tal­ly to get used to that, it took a bit of a while. But then you have a few loans and devel­op, it’s a nat­ur­al part of the game – you grow, not just as a play­er but also as a per­son.”

Small is now thriv­ing at Charl­ton Ath­let­ic in League One, where he is work­ing under for­mer Saints boss Nathan Jones.

The Addicks have only lost once since the Welsh­man took over — a 2–0 defeat to Ruben Sell­es’ Read­ing.

Daily Echo: Thierry Small's early Charlton performances have drawn praise from fansThier­ry Smal­l­’s ear­ly Charl­ton per­for­mances have drawn praise from fans (Image: PA)

“I worked with the man­ag­er a lit­tle bit (at Southamp­ton) when I came back off loan at Port Vale,” Small con­tin­ued.

“We went to Spain and did a lit­tle camp when he first came. It is good to be back with him and have a famil­iar face.

“I love his inten­si­ty and what he wants us to do as play­ers. He’s real­ly demand­ing. You want to be under a man­ag­er who demands the best of his play­ers and wants high stan­dards all the time.

“It not only helps the team but it helps you as a play­er. Charl­ton are a sleep­ing giant. It’s got good own­er­ship, it’s got good man­age­ment and it’s got good play­ers.

“With the project around it, every­one should be opti­mistic and excit­ed about what is going to hap­pen. As play­ers we are excit­ed.”

Small has only signed a short-term con­tract which will keep him at the Lon­don-based club until the end of this sea­son.

Charl­ton have the option to extend his deal for anoth­er 12 months, some­thing the teenag­er is hope­ful will hap­pen.

“I’m here for every­thing. If that is what the club wants to do then it is some­thing I wouldn’t be turn­ing down,” he con­clud­ed.