Sam Gallagher says he’s still getting used to the physical nature of top-flight football after his rapid ascent into Southampton’s senior ranks.
After beginning the campaign with the youth team, the 18-year-old has gone on to become a near-permanent member of Mauricio Pochettino’s First Team.
The six-foot-four striker has 17 senior appearances to his name already, but says he still has plenty of improving to do – particularly when it comes to what’s expected of someone with his frame.
“I wouldn’t have dreamed of being in the position I’m in now [at the start of the season],” Gallagher said in an interview with BBC Radio Solent, which you can watch on Saints Player now.
“I went away with the Under-18s at the start of the season so I was thinking about getting into the Under-21 squad and working my way into that. It’s been so rapid.
“The intensity is a lot higher and everything is more physical. Everything has stepped up.
“Obviously my height gives me that label straight away, but I don’t think I play like a target man at all. I like to try to run in behind and use my pace a bit.
“People expect me to give the defender a little bit [of contact] and hold the ball up, and that’s definitely something I’m still working on in my game.
“I know I need to improve on that. It’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing – knowing that you can give a bit and take a bit as well.”
If he features in Saints’ three remaining 2013/14 fixtures, Gallagher will have made 20 senior appearances in his maiden first-team season.
The striker says he’s grateful for the opportunity he has been given, and that he’s already looking forward to next year.
“There’s no other club like this one at the moment,” enthused Sam, who joined Southampton from Plymouth Argyle in 2012.
“All of our young players know that you do get given a chance here, so you’ve got to be ready when they come. There are a few more boys coming up, so it’d be nice to see them get a go as well.
“It could be a very big summer,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to my first pre-season with the First Team.
“I know it’ll be tough so I’ll have to prepare myself right. It’ll definitely be different to the last pre-season I had – a lot harder.”
Gallagher also praised the Club for how it supported him when, not long after he made his full Premier League debut against Arsenal in January, he was hit by the news that his father, Richard, had passed away after a short illness.
“They’ve given me time and been there to comfort me as well,” said the youngster.
“It’s been handled really well. Everyone was really comforting, but not so much so that I felt like I wasn’t being treated how I was before.
“Everyone gave me a little bit of space and allowed for what might have happened. I’ve got great support around me from my family and the Club – everyone really.
“I just wanted to play my football.I gave myself a week after it happened, mainly to be there for my mum and my sister. After that, I thought the best way to deal with it was to get back up and do what I’ve been doing.”