Southampton’s record of producing young talented British players speaks for itself. Of course, the rise of the World’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, began down at the south coast club’s academy, where the young Welshman transformed from a young, scraggly full-back, to a powerful and explosive winger, leading him to becoming Real Madrid’s next big money purchase. The likes of both Arsenal and England International wingers, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also matured from the Southampton academy, eventually getting their move to the big London club. The Saints have produced talented players year after year, going as far back as legendary striker Matt Le Tissier.
Mauricio Pochettino is one of the first managers to take the risk – to the same extent – on fielding such young home-grown players in top-flight football since Sir Alex Ferguson did so with the famous class of 92. Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Callum Chambers and Jake Sinclair have all featured in Southampton’s successful Premier League season this year, with Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse regularly starting.
Sitting comfortably in 9th place and just a point behind United, Pochettino’s young squad are an example for other teams to follow. Southampton’s squad consists of more than 10 English players, with Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and James Ward-Prowse all playing regularly for the south-coast club this season. The Argentinian manager also has these youngsters playing exciting football, which hopefully can be fed into the English national team.
This influx of English talent that Southampton has brought is an exciting prospect for England’s 2014 World Cup hopes. Roy Hodgson will have a tough time with his squad selection if these young stars continue to impress against the top clubs. Both Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse – being just 18 and 19 years old – have taken to top-flight football very quickly, performing well against the likes of Chelsea, Man United and Man City. Perhaps the England manager should take a leaf out of Pochettino’s book and give these youngsters the chance to show their country how passionate they are; something that the ‘current generation’ of players seem to lack.
Last years opening of St. George’s Park training base back in October 2012 is an encouraging sign for English football, with the project costing £105 million in total. Chairman, David Sheepshanks referred to the training centre as a “sporting destination of choice for coaches, players, administrators and officials.” The aims are encouraging for English football, with the FA wanting to attract more coaches and clubs to adopt a more exciting style of football. However, Southampton should be a key focus point for St. George’s Park, given their high standard of coaching through their youth systems. With such successful English players being produced at Southampton FC, the FA and David Sheepshanks should turn their attention to the Southampton coaching system and style of play that seems to suit these English players, instead of spending millions of pounds on unproven coaches that year after year fail to encourage successful football philosophies.
With a new training academy worth £30 million, the Saints have invested a huge amount of money into producing these prodigies, however the young stars have given English football a lift. If other clubs followed this approach towards youth football – encouraging a similar style of play that is seen at St. Mary’s through their youth systems, surely the England national team would vastly improve?