Can Norwich City enjoy similar youth academy success to Southampton in the future?
- Credit: AP
Southampton's academy has produced over £100m of talent in the past decade, David Freezer looks at the inspiration Norwich City can take from the Saints ahead of their Premier League clash.
Norwich City's academy system has come on leaps and bounds in recent years but this weekend the Canaries come up against a club with an academy which is the envy of the entire Premier League.
Youth products Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse are all likely to figure for the Saints when Chris Hughton's side visit St Mary's on Saturday.
While City's Under-18s lifted the FA Youth Cup last season to provide the club's academy set-up an extremely welcome boost, the Canaries still have some way to go to match Southampton's output.
Their south coast production line has not only produced the likes of Arsenal and England stars Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the world's most expensive footballer, Gareth Bale.
The Welsh superstar's £86m move to Real Madrid last summer means the Southampton academy is responsible for producing well over £100m of talent in the past decade.
It is something bosses at Carrow Road, and every other Premier League club, can only sit back, admire and do their best to try and take inspiration from.
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Lallana and Shaw both played for England in their friendly win against Denmark last week, with senior Saints stars Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert, who cut their teeth at other clubs, also in the squad. Ward-Prowse is also already a fixture for the England Under-21s.
The club has invested £30m in its Marchwood training base and former chairman Nicola Cortese, who surprisingly left the club at the end of 2013, had been determined to strengthen the club's youth system.
Cortese often cited Barcelona's La Masia academy when talking about his hopes for the system, saying: 'The academy is very important to become a sustainable business. We would want to see a starting XI in the Premier League that is fed from our youth development.'
The Saints followed a very similar path to the Premier League as the Canaries, with Nigel Adkins guiding the club out of League One and to immediate promotion out of the Championship, just as Paul Lambert did with City.
What the Saints have that City don't of course, is a billionaire owner.
Swiss entrepreneur Markus Liebherr saved the club from administration in 2009 but died in August 2010, leaving the club and his fortune to his daughter, Katharina, who has succeeded Cortese as chairman.
What City do have though is Category One status for their academy, as they embrace the new Elite Player Performance Plan methods of developing players.
If Colney Training Centre can become the conveyor belt of talent that Marchwood has for Southampton, the money invested in gaining that Category One status will be more than worth it – and you can take that from a man who knows, England manager Roy Hodgson.
'Southampton are becoming a very good club, as far as England are concerned, in terms of providing players. We like what we see there,' Hodgson said last November.
'(Nathaniel) Clyne is always in our thoughts, Ward-Prowse and Shaw are outstanding individuals, you have (England Under-19 captain Callum) Chambers and other academy players who are very interesting.
'It's a little bit easier, if you're outside the top four or five, to give a young, home-grown player a chance.'
Southampton's recent academy products
Gareth Bale – Sold to Tottenham for £5m in 2007, plus £5m in add-on fees, including a 15pc sell-on clause. However Saints sold the sell-on clause to Spurs for £3m when in financial trouble so only made £2m from Bale's world-record £86m transfer to Real Madrid last summer.
Theo Walcott – Sold to Arsenal for £5m in 2006, rising to £12.5m, now played over 280 times and scored more than 65 goals for the Gunners. Now 24, Walcott has been capped by England 36 times, scoring six goals.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Sold to Arsenal for £12m in 2011, with a further £3m in add-on fees. Details of his contract leaked last year show that Arsenal still pay Saints £10,000 every time the 20-year-old plays more than 20 minutes for them. Capped 14 times for England so far, scoring three goals.
Adam Lallana – The 25-year-old has shot to national prominence this season as the academy product continued producing excellent Premier League form, to earn him an England debut in a friendly against Chile at Wembley last November. With the 25-year-old's value easily over £15m at the moment, the creative midfielder looks certain to be part of England's World Cup squad this summer.
Luke Shaw – The latest starlet off the Southampton conveyor belt is already being touted as the next Gareth Bale and linked with moves to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. The left-back may only be 18 but has already played 50 Premier League games, stands strong at 6ft 1ins tall and was handed his senior England debut as a substitute in the recent friendly against Denmark.
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