Alan Shearer. Matthew Le Tissier. Mick Channon. What do these legendary players have in common?
All three started their careers at Southampton Football Club and consequently went on to play for their national side, England.
More recently, the renowned Saints academy has produced talented internationals such as world record signing Gareth Bale, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And all these players stood out from the rest at Southampton before making big-money moves to North London outfits Tottenham and Arsenal respectively.
So what are Southampton doing that other clubs aren’t? The south coast club can take great pride in their record of delivering promising youth and there are many more examples in the current first-team which suggests the never-ending conveyor belt of home-grown stars show no signs of slowing down.
On top of all this fuss about being a producer and developer of English youth, what many people might have forgotten is the fact that Southampton has already established itself in the Premier League and would be looking to end this season inside the top half. With an English core hovering around the first team what an achievement that could be!
Looking into the club’s contribution to the national side, one may wonder why they are not getting the praise they should. The talismanic Adam Lallana has already been called up to the national team and given his impressive performances across the divisions for Southampton, his call-up was more than justified. The tricky midfielder provides a different edge to the national side and could be an outside bet for a place in England’s World Cup squad for Brazil 2014.
Rickie Lambert (although not produced by Southampton – has excelled at the club) is another English talent who has been called up more recently scoring two goals in two games in the process, announcing himself to the world that he has earned the right to be considered by Roy Hodgson. The big target man scored a fair amount of goals last season, but don’t let his stature fool you. Lambert is so much more than an aerial presence – he has the ability to pick a pass and his all round game is first-class.
When people think of mouth watering English centre back duo in recent times, Rio-Terry would popup in the minds of almost every football fan whilst some have tipped Manchester United’s Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as the future. If this is the case then Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne could definitely be the two players on either side of the defensive duo, in the near future.
Shaw and Clyne, have shown talent beyond their years when exposed to first-team football last season. Clyne, a graduate of the Crystal Palace academy, gave a remarkable performance in the opening day defeat at Manchester City last season and since then has gone on to prove himself to be one of the best full-backs in the division.
Shaw’s progression is even more impressive, and recently he has been turning heads with some fantastic performances that have earned him the label of the “next Gareth Bale”. Such form has even prompted big clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea to register their interest, with the latter acknowledging his potential early on, placing a 4m bid back in july 2012 before even Shaw started got called-up for the first team.
An equally talented prospect from the academy comes in the shape of central midfielder James Ward-Prowse. The 19-year-old has already appeared eight times in the league last season and the Southampton management trust in his ability. Ward-Prowse, possesses a natural ability on the ball and shows composure that is far beyond his years that instills confidence in those around him.
Two other Saints academy prospects worth keeping an eye on are center back Jack Stephens and winger Callum Chambers. Both have impressed during games with the youth set-up and look set for a bright future.
It would be a little premature to place these players in the same category as England stars such as Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney or even Jack Wilshere, but the potential for these players to become regular features in England squads of the future is definitely there.
Not to forget, credit has to be given to the Southampton board for taking up the responsibility of developing an English core, understanding the importance of the future of England National Team that looks uncertain.
Lambert’s goal against Moldova would have really given a lot of happiness and relief to Saints supporters as they got to see and will continue to see someone from their own team helping the national team in important games with vital contribution. As the south coast side continue to build their squad around a core of young English talent, don’t be surprised if they play a key part in the future of England on the international stage.