Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse had found it difficult to break into the starting XI so far this season and gave away the penalty as his side surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Brighton and Hove Albion at St Mary’s on Monday night, and the south coast outfit should have sold the 23-year-old for £15m while they had the chance.
Well, reports suggested towards the end of the summer transfer window that both Watford and Burnley – the latter of whom were reportedly ready to pay £15m for the one-cap England international – were keen to take the midfielder away.
However, further reports suggested that Saints didn’t want to lose their academy graduate either on loan or permanently, which was perhaps understandable at the time given he is a big favourite among many of the St Mary’s faithful, some of whom have reacted on Twitter to a former star shining with one saying “no wonder he wanted to leave us”.
However, if Ward-Prowse was hoping he would be a regular in the XI under Mark Hughes this term he has been sorely disappointed, with the likes of Mario Lemina, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mo Elyonoussi among those preferred to him in a 4-4-2 system.
While he has made more than 200 appearances for the first-team since making his debut at 16 years of age, the midfielder has struggled to find a regular position in the team that suits him, and he has played in a whole range of midfield roles, as well as at wing-back and full-back on a handful of occasions.
It perhaps is no coincidence that any of the managers he has now worked under – aside from perhaps Claude Puel – have given him a consistent run in the side, and it isn’t difficult to see why given he rarely contributes anything from open play, instead often relying on the quality of his set-pieces.
With Hughes having plenty of midfield options to select from and following the summer addition of Stuart Armstrong from Celtic, Southampton should have cashed in on Ward-Prowse while they had the chance and invested the money back into a position that needs strengthening.