The 2012/2013 English Premier League sees the return of Southampton FC to the Premier League.
Despite (unbelievably!) never winning Manager of the Month in the Championship last season, Nigel Adkins’ Southampton side now face life in the Premier League after finishing 2nd behind Reading (but achieving their second successive promotions in the process). Adkins has well and truly flipped the fortunes of Southampton Football Club with efficiency and style, whilst working towards and achieving long term objectives designed by Nicola Cortese.
Stark contrast to the days when Southampton FC were facing down the barrel of a 10 point deduction and subsequent relegation to League 1, an overwhelming sense of optimism now surrounds the club. With stability in the boardroom, the Liebherr’s financial support and legacy, Nigel Adkins’ inimitable positivity and an extremely tight team spirit, they could be the real surprise package in the Premier League in years to come.
After Euro 2012, Gianluigi Buffon commented that:
“For a number of years now, the English league has had the best football and is the best league in terms of quality. The money that’s in the game means they can go and buy anyone from all over Europe or the world. (…) the league in England is no longer very faithful to what the national side needs. With this footballing globalisation, it’s very difficult. You struggle to have players from your own country playing in the top league.”
However, the emphasis at Southampton is building a young and talented squad for the future, centred around home-grown players. This involves 2 key aspects – coupling their exemplary Youth Academy (as discussed in this poignant Guardian article titled ‘Southampton aiming to emulate Barcelona’s homegrown success as they near Premier League return’), which has already nurtured the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with like-minded transfer targets.
As the new EPL season arrives, 4 players who fit this culture at Saints FC and are worth looking out for in the 2012/13 season are:
Adam Lallana – The tricky winger has been at Southampton FC since the tender age of 12 and is arguably the first player in Adkins’ starting XI. Gracing the Championship with twists, turns, immaculate first touches, a wide range of passing and use of both feet last season, it’d be no surprise to see Lallana mentioned in the same breath as ‘England international’.
Total Career Stats: 150 apps – 36 goals
Jay Rodriguez – Commanding a £6.5million price tag is never an easy task for any striker, let alone a 22 year-old who will play his first career season in the Premier League in 2012/13. Expected to play up front with Ricky Lambert, Rodriguez smashed in an impressive 21 goals last season for Burnley.
Total Career Stats: 86 apps – 35 goals
Jack Cork – Recently named by Stuart Pearce in the Team GB squad for the Olympics, Jack Cork was on loan at Southampton in 2008 before signing from Chelsea for around an undisclosed fee in 2011 (estimated to be £750,000). Versatile, Cork can play defensive, central or attacking midfield, or in defence and is a tough-tackling/creative asset for the Southampton team.
Total Career Stats: 182 apps – 6 goals
Luke Shaw – With a £4million bid from Chelsea being rejected (and rumours of interest from Manchester City and Arsenal), the 16 year-old left-back is already considered a hot prospect among several Premier League clubs, not least Southampton who are keen to retain his services. Having already represented England at Under-16 and Under-17s level, the youngster is already set to challenge Danny Fox for regular first team football.
Total Career Stats: Yet to start
(Stats via Soccerbase.com)