When Nigel Adkins sanctioned the £150k arrival of a little-known centre-back called Jack Stephens, we presume that very few people actually sat up and took notice.
The then 17-year-old initially went straight into Southampton’s youth academy after his move from Plymouth, and broke into the first-team after Virgil van Dijk suffered a foot injury during the 2015/16 campaign.
Since then, he has gone on to make 104 appearances for the Saints, truly emerging from the wilderness to become one of the first names on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s teamsheet this season – after the 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Leicester, that is.
Stephens started Southampton’s opening day defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor, before being withdrawn in the 73rd minute with the Saints 3-0 down – he did not feature again until playing 45 minutes of the aforementioned 9-0 defeat.
However, he has been regularly involved in the starting XI since then, making 20 starts out of a possible 29 for the club this term while scoring one goal and registering three assists.
The 26-year-old was also nominated for the January Premier League Player of the Month award due to his fine efforts, and Adkins’ shrewd capture of him in 2011 truly has turned out to be an inspired piece of business.
Stephens’ form has seen his value rise up to £6.3m – according to Transfermarkt – which represents a huge increase on Southampton’s initial £150k investment.
To reference his 104 Southampton appearances again, if you were to divide his low transfer fee by his total outings for the club, you would discover that each game he has played for the Saints has cost them just £1.4k – he truly has turned out to be an inspired piece of business.
At just 26 years of age, the Cornwall-born defender has plenty of time on his side to enhance his Southampton legacy and make these numbers look even more attractive – Adkins can pat himself on the back for this one.
In other news, the capture of this Southampton ace worth £172k per game was a piece of wizardry from Les Reed…