|17 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain|
For a number of years now the Southampton FC Youth Academy has been producing some of the brightest young talents in the UK. Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Wayne Bridge and even the great Alan Shearer are all products of the Southampton youth system. All have since left the Saints to go on to bigger and better things in the Premiership. Walcott plays for Arsenal, Bale for Spurs and Bridge now plays for West Ham but had stints at Man City and Chelsea too. Alan Shearer initially left Southampton for Blackburn before returning to his home town of Newcastle, where he played for the majority of his career.
Anyways, enough of the history lesson. The fact is, two new youngsters, both products of the Saints Youth Academy, are being watched by Premier League clubs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam “I don't-have-a-fancy-double-barrelled-second-name” Lallana are playing some great football for Southampton down in League One.
|Adam Lallana (Right)|
Lallana had a breakout season last year, scoring 20 goals as Saints marched towards success in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and a 7th place finish in the League (they started the season with -10 points). Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the other hand, is currently in the middle of his breakout season. His recent form on the wing for Southampton has been nothing short of astonishing and he deserves all the plaudits he is getting.
Despite the undoubted talent of both players, whether or not they could play in the Premier League, at least right now, is disputable. If either player moved to a club like Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea, they wouldn't get anywhere near the first team. They would be playing reserve team football or warming the bench. They might get 10 minutes of game time here or there in the cup competitions but they won't progress as players.
Theo Walcott made the mistake of leaving Saints for Arsenal at too young an age and sat on the Gunners' bench for two years before playing. In contrast, Gareth Bale stayed at Saints for an extra year after gaining the Premier League's attention, learned his trade by playing regularly, and is now thought of as one of the best left wingers in the world.
Southampton do not have to sell their prize players any more (thank you Markus Liebherr), but if the players really want to leave and would like to ply their trade at a higher level, they should really make sure they are ready to do so. Lallana seems to have already made his decision by signing a four-and-a-half year deal with Saints in a move that will delight the fans.
It is worth noting that Southampton have yet to recieve any offers for either player despite Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain being linked to Newcastle United and Liverpool respectively.