Ronald Koeman believes Jay Rodriguez is capable of playing a “pivotal role” in Southampton’s close season upon his return from injury.
Southampton forward Rodriguez will miss another two months after undergoing foot surgery this week, his latest blow hot on the heels of his recovery from long-term knee ligament trouble.
His club boss Ronald Koeman hailed the 26-year-old England international for refusing to buckle under the frustrations of his latest injury setback, given he suffered his knee ligament tear back in April 2014.
Koeman expects Rodriguez to bolster Saints’ charge towards the Premier League’s home straight, once he finally finds fitness in the new year.
“I hope he can play a pivotal role in the last part of the season,” said Koeman of Rodriguez. “That would be great for him and important for Southampton.
“It’s been difficult for Jay. It’s difficult for the player by himself because it’s also a mental question of how you deal with that kind of disappointment.
“He’s strong and still young and he will come back and be the player that he was, but it will just take a bit longer than anyone wanted.
“The surgery was the only solution to bring Jay fit again, he will start the recovery next week and be out for seven or eight weeks.
“Of course he was disappointed about that final decision, but he’s handling it well.”
Southampton face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, keen to hit back to Premier League form after a frustrating 1-0 home defeat to Stoke.
Victory for the Saints would inflict two consecutive home defeats on City for the first time in seven years, following their 4-1 reverse at the hands of Liverpool.
The visitors have not won at the Etihad Stadium since 2004 however, underscoring the size of their task in trying to topple Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Shane Long will lead the line in the absence of the suspended Graziano Pelle, with Sadio Mane buzzing around in behind.
While Koeman is confident in the fire-power among his fully fit charges, he did accept Rodriguez can boost his arsenal when he finally regains rude health.
“I spoke several times with Jay when we realised his knee problem would take more time than everyone was expecting,” Koeman said.
“Of course we have regular contact and we support the player, but after that it’s how the player handles those circumstances by himself.
“Jay has handled those challenges well, and will do the same again.”