You may have seen the headline and thought “but Ward-Prowse has played in the Premier League for 4 years”, and he has. He is still only 21. He is the latest talent to come through a Southampton youth academy that has already bought through the likes of Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott. There is no reason why he can’t achieve what they have achieved in the coming years.
Ever since making his Saints debut at the age of 17, the midfielder has had a positive impact in the side. Anyone who makes his Premier League debut against then Champions Manchester City undoubtedly has all the talents needed. Ward-Prowse’s calmness and composure was striking from his very first day in the Premier League. Over the years we have seen enough players crumble under the pressure of 40,000 people in the stands and however millions more watching on the TV to expect the Englishman to follow suit. At 17 most would have struggled to perform at their best in a reserve match; Ward-Prowse could have been mistaken for an experienced veteran based on his early Premier League performances.
What really sets him apart though from many other youngsters is his ability from dead-ball situations. Too often nowadays we see players waste good opportunities from set-pieces by hitting the first man. Ward-Prowse rarely wastes deliveries, and with the likes of Graziano Pelle and Virgil van Dijk in the side, that is a huge asset for Southampton. He also possesses a wide range of passing perfectly suited to the Southampton side. For Ronald Koeman to have the resources to play the trio of Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and Ward-Prowse behind Pelle just shows the strength of this current Southampton side.
In terms of international football, Ward-Prowse is probably at the stage where he is ready to play for England. At this point you’ll have started the “it’s too easy to earn an England call-up these days” rant. The same can’t be said for Ward-Prowse. He’s had to sit back and watch the likes of Tom Cleverly and Jonjo Shelvey gain call-ups regardless of their level of performance, while Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard have been picked before making 10 Premier League appearances. Ward-Prowse has proven himself over 92 Premier League games for Southampton with a consistently high level of performance. It can’t be doubted that he is now ready to play for England.
In terms of other players his age, Ward-Prowse is head and shoulders above them in terms of experience. This along with his obvious talents mean that he will go a long way in this game.