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Academy Graduates 2012

The 2011-12 Season Quartet

Calum Chambers

DOB: 20.01.95

A slightly unusual sight in modern football - a tall, elegant right winger in the Chris Waddle mould. Not blessed with the searing pace of a Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or indeed Luke Shaw, but a fine athlete who is skilful and powerful enough to get past his man nonetheless. His build and languid playing style might invite unhelpful comparisons with a certain Southampton number seven. Another who has supposedly attracted the attention of bigger clubs. As well as the now inevitable links to Arsenal, Alan Pardew is thought to be a fan.

James Ward-Prowse

DOB: 01.11.94

In spite of the attention attracted by Shaw, Ward-Prowse has long been held to be the leading light among this group of youngsters. Busy and technically gifted, Ward-Prowse has the same anarchic streak in his game that can be recognised in the sort of small, clever midfield schemers produced in recent years by Spain. At U18 level he has dominated games, often appearing to merely lend the ball to team mates on the understanding that it will shortly be returned. Management have praised his maturity, but for now Saints might struggle to accommodate his naivety. It is to be hoped, though, that his spontaneity will not be crushed, for he is capable of eliding play through the priceless knack of appearing between tiers of opponents.

Luke Shaw

DOB: 12.07.95

Over the last decade, English football has become obsessed with speed. Shaw has it in abundance, but pace is of little value without the cognition or control with which to exploit it. Thankfully Shaw seems to be developing the technical and tactical ability required of a top class full back, and has a sweet left foot to compliment his direct dribbling. He will inevitably be likened to Bale, and his crossing from both open play and dead balls is similarly impressive. The U18’s FA Youth Cup defeat against Nottingham Forest highlighted the good and bad in Shaw - though superb going forward, he was horribly exposed defensively. Those of us who were at Millwall for the FA Cup game last season will hope that we witnessed the debut of another England international, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves - it could be a while yet before he starts for Saints.

Jack Stephens

DOB: 27.04.94

Stephens may very well be the youngster most likely to break through this season, as much as anything because he is the most well-developed physically. Put simply, he is a brute. Good going forward and excellent in the air, his performances at right back have been reminiscent of those of Micah Richards when he broke into the England team a few years back. As with all Saints academy products, he is comfortable enough on the ball, and while he is not a dribbler like Shaw or Chambers, his athleticism on the overlap provides a valuable outlet in a game where increasingly the full backs are responsible for lending width. Has also played as a central defender.

shirleymush, 8th June 2012

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Jack Stephens