It would probably be fairest to ask this question at the end of the season, and see how well that famed path to the first team has worked for the wantaway Everton left-back in his new career at Southampton.

Remember, the much-hyped youngster who had impressed with Everton Academy and U23 sides was given his senior debut by Carlo Ancelotti against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last year. But that was not enough to persuade the 17-year-old defender to sign a very generous professional contract with the Blues, ending 6 years with the Academy.

One of the main reasons given for accepting a place with The Saints was, ironically, that he felt his advancement would be stalled with Lucas Digne and Niels Nkounkou ahead of him. Now, both players are elsewhere with Vitaliy Mykolenko joining Everton in January 2022.

Small had still not played for the Saints first team although he had sat on the bench as an unsed sub for 3 Premier League games after Christmas… but that would change when they faced Coventry in the 4th Round of the FA Cup, Small getting a starting debut just a year after getting an almost identical senior debut with Everton. But it didn't appear to go all that well, according to this BBC snippet:

"Saints boss Hasenhuttl showed his dissatisfaction at his side's first-half display by making a double half-time substitution, replacing Adam Armstrong and teenage debutant Thierry Small with Walker-Peters and Stuart Armstrong."

And Small has been back with the Saints U23s ever since.