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Could Jake Hesketh start for Southampton in EFL Cup final?

Southampton's Jake Hesketh celebrates scoring their second goal with James Ward-Prowse

Southampton manager Claude Puel could be tempted to play his young star on the biggest stage.

Southampton's Jake Hesketh celebrates scoring their second goal with James Ward-ProwseSouthampton's Jake Hesketh celebrates scoring earlier in the EFL Cup

When Southampton were last in a major final, the 2003 FA Cup Final, manager Gordon Strachan sprung a surprise by handing a start to Chris Baird.

At the time Baird was just 21 and had only made two other appearances for the Saints, so it was by far the biggest game of his career, but he impressed despite what turned out to be a defeat.

Claude Puel could pull a similar trick by selecting Jake Hesketh for the EFL Cup Final next week.

Hesketh was the star man when Southampton beat Crystal Palace earlier in the competition, scoring the second of the goals, but the youngster hasn’t featured since September because of injury.

He has been back in training for a couple of weeks without featuring for the under-23 side, suggesting that Puel very much sees him as a first team player.

With Sofiane Boufal an injury doubt for the final, the possibly of picking Hesketh – a technically gifted player with deceptively good dribbling skills and an eye for a pass – as a wildcard may be tempting. Given his lack of playing time a position on the bench would be more likely.

That day in 2003 proved a catalyst in the career of Baird, who has gone on to win 77 caps for Northern Ireland and was a runner-up again seven years later in the Europa League with Fulham.

Derby's Chris Baird in action with Leeds' Ronaldo VieiraChris Baird left Southampton in 2007 and is now at Derby County

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