The Southampton academy system is well regarded as one of the best in the country, having produced the likes of Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain and in the past the likes of Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer.
Southampton’s current prize asset left-back Luke Shaw who recently signed a new five-year deal to keep him on at St Mary’s but the Saints’ policy of structuring their academy with Barcelona as their ‘model’ has paid dividends – not just for them but for Tottenham and Arsenal too.
18-year-old Shaw is, however, not the only hot prospect coming through – 18-year-old midfielder James Ward-Prowse in another youngsters with a bright future and down in the U21 squad the talent pool includes 18-year-old winger Calum Chambers.
However, moving away from just Southampton who are now a Premier League side, one only has to look at Manchester United’s purchase of Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha and Blackburn’s Phil Jones to see that cherry-picking youngsters from Championship sides is not only a intelligent footballing decision but an astute economic choice too.
22-year-old Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes scored 28 goals last term and 5 assists averaging a goal every 140 minutes. Charlie Austin, Burnley’s 24-year-old striker averaged a goal every 134 minutes with a tally of 24.
Thomas Ince of Blackpool is one of the most coveted Championship youngsters. The 20-year-old winger scored 18 goals last term and made 14 assists.
21-year-old right back Kieran Trippier made 12 assists – incidentally all of those players performed statistically better than Zaha and better than Bale in his last season with the Saints.
They have replicated the Bale success to some degree, with Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton both plucked from Sheffield United. It might just be something they want to take a look at doing a little more.
If Tottenham want to find the best players, they only have to learn from experience and look at who their best player is and where he came from – the Championship is full of diamonds in the rough ready and waiting for their chance at the big time.
image: © Jan S0L0