Southampton boss makes Ross Stewart claim after Sunderland transfer and play-off appearance at West Brom

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Ross Stewart came off the bench for Southampton during their play-off first leg against West Brom.

Southampton boss Russell Martin still believes Ross Stewart will be a brilliant signing for the club despite his injury-hit campaign.

The 27-year-old joined the Saints from Sunderland last summer, for a reported fee of £8million - plus potential add-ons,  but made just three senior appearances during the regular Championship season due to multiple setbacks. Stewart came off the bench with 18 minutes remaining as Southampton were held to a goalless draw at West Brom in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, with the second leg set to be played at St Mary’s on Friday.

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Stewart’s shot 12 minutes from time then forced an instinctive save from Albion keeper Alex Palmer, after taking a deflection. “It's a great save,” said Martin when asked about Stewart’s effort. “Ross' energy, enthusiasm, aggression, physical presence, all the stuff I've just said about Che (Adams).

“And that half an hour for him today will be so important in the next step for him. He's more ready to start a game for sure. And then we need to make sure we win on Friday to give him another opportunity to be ready for another game. That's the job at hand.”

When asked about Stewart’s impact, Martin added: “I think he also just has an enthusiasm for the game that is really beautiful to see. He's had a tough journey to be here. He's had a tough time since he's been here. And now he has just desperation and enthusiasm to help us. And I love that about him. That's why we were so keen to sign him in the first place.

“I do believe, I've said to you so many times, over a long period he's going to be a really brilliant signing for the club. But he can also be a really brilliant signing for the club now and be really important for us on Friday night.”

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In the other play-off semi-final, Leeds and Norwich played out a goalless draw at Carrow Road, with the second leg set to be played at Elland Road on Thursday. The Championship play-off final will then take place on Sunday, May 26 at Wembley.

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