MICHAEL Obafemi’s former Leyton Orient coach is backing the striker to overcome his injury setbacks and continue his meteoric progress next season.

The teenage Saints striker was signed from Leyton Orient as a 16 year-old in 2016, before making his Premier League debut under Mark Hughes last November.

Two weeks later, he made his Republic of Ireland debut away to a Denmark side including Saints teammate Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Then he scored his first Premier League goal in the 3-1 win at Huddersfield under Ralph Hasenhuttl in December, only to be dogged by a hamstring problems for the rest of the season.

After two months out, Obafemi lasted just 20 minutes of his comeback match against Arsenal in February and was ruled out for the season.

But, Danny Webb, who was once a young Saints striker himself, is backing him to complete a successful comeback in 2019/20.

Webb said: “Everyone at Orient was talking about Michael after he made his debut against Manchester City.

“And that fantastic first goal was the sort he used to score for us, and a ruthless finish after running in behind. He was always lightning fast.

“He’s got the power and pace you need in the Premier League and it was great to see him get off the mark.”

It is hoped Obafemi returns to the first team with that same fleetness of foot.

Hasenhuttl feared the injury recurrence could be a long-term problem, but with surgery not required Webb is confident Obafemi will have a successful full season.

“When you’re quick you always have that risk of a hamstring going but it’s better to get injured after making a positive mark,” he continued.

“He never had any recurring issues with us.

“There was no fat on him, he was so fit that any injuries he did have were bad luck. Nowadays clubs like Southampton have an unbelievable number of medical staff which is only a good thing for him.

“They can go into any problem they have no matter how small and stop it happening again.

“It’s almost prehab as opposed to rehab but I’m sure their physios will be a bit fed up with him by the time he’s fit again! He’s 100 miles an hour and is a very funny character, in a good way.

“You would laugh at his cheekiness knowing he would always give 100 per cent effort and produce the goods, whether it was for the U14s the U18s or the reserves. I’m sure it’s the same at Southampton.

“He was always full of life and personality, enthusiastic and very, very sharp. As soon as you put a ball in front of him he trained like his life depended on it.

“We threw him in the youth team at Orient and he scared the life out of the other teams, against players who had three or four years on him.

“You knew at that point that he had a chance. He was very chirpy but you could never get the hump with him because he was funny with it.

“He had a big personality without being, arrogant rude or disrespectful. He had just the right balance. If he can continue that attitude his footballing ability should take him far.”

Webb was an apprentice centre-forward at The Dell before being moving to Southend to play for his dad (former Saints and Chelsea defender David Webb) for £10,000 in 2000.

“I played a few reserve games for Saints and was in the same year as Brian Howard and Scott McDonald,” he recalls. “Chrissy Baird was the year above me and Stewart Henderson and John Sainty coached us - but Saints have about 400 staff at their academy now!

“Halfway through my second-year scholar season I was offered a professional contract.

“Looking back, maybe I should have stayed and tried my luck but I decided to follow my dad to Southend and forged an ok career for myself.”

Webb, 35, played for Hull, Cambridge United and Yeovil before his coaching career took him to Brisbane Road in 2012, when he began working with Obafemi.

“I spent four or five years working regularly with Michael,” he continued.

“Having a July birthday [ Obafemi will be 19 next month] meant he was the youngest in his age group and two years younger than a lot of players when he played a year up, which was a remarkable feat in itself. You always had a better chance of winning if he was playing.

“He always punched above his weight. Although he was a young lad, he was physically ahead of his time so wasn’t out of his depth.

“A few months before he was sold, he and some other schoolboys came in over half-term when I was working with the first team.

“I got him to train with them and even the older pros would look at him and go ‘flippin’ ‘eck’.

“He played out wide now and then but mainly in a front three alongside Sam Dalby, who is now at Leeds, and Ruel Sotiriou who is still with us.

“Two of his other teammates - Steven Alzate and Tristan Abrahams - went to Brighton and Norwich. It was a hell of a production line.

“He wasn’t here long enough to play in our youth team as much as he should have done but in one game against West Ham, he scored a 40-yard volley to get us back to 2-2.

“It was a pre-season friendly at our training round in Chigwell, but when you play West Ham for Orient you want to do well.

“He would score great goals like that and be so cool because it came so naturally to him.

“There’s a long way to go but I’m sure he can score goals like that again.”

Like many advanced youngsters, Obafemi also benefited from having a talented older sibling.

“We had his brother Afi just before my time who was a very, very good prospect,” continued Webb.

“He’s another strong boy who has played in Conference South. We thought he’d go on to bigger things, but it’s nice that Michael has done.

“He was a pleasure to work with. There was never a time when you had to get him to do a bit more on the pitch.

“He always came alive when that ball was in front of him.”

Obafemi moved to Saints before making his Orient debut, but Webb knows it was the right move for him.

“It was a dilemma for the football club. At 14 we could see him in our first team in a few years

“But it was for a decent fee and you have the lad’s best interests at heart.

“He wanted to speak to Southampton and luckily he hasn’t let them down after taking a chance on him.

“When you see him smiling and you get messages saying ‘thanks for everything’ after he left, it’s nice.

“All credit to Southampton for throwing him in when they did.

“There’s so much pressure in the Premier League, especially in a relegation scrap, which makes it difficult to blood young players.

“But they threw him in and it raised his stock overnight.

“A lot of credit goes to a lot of people for Michael’s progress but ultimately it goes to him for making people’s heads turn.”