Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana. These are all names of players who have come through the Southampton youth team, one of the most successful in Europe. There is no reason why James Ward-Prowse can’t be the next to graduate from the academy.
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 many million 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 misuses deliveries, and with the likes of Graziano Pelle and Virgil van Dijk in the side, that is a huge asset for Southampton. This skill was abundantly clear when the Saints played West Brom on Saturday, with the Englishman curling an unstoppable free-kick past Ben Foster from around 25 yards.
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.
Despite being just 21, Ward-Prowse is already an experienced Premier League player. He has made 93 Premier League appearances for Southampton, 113 matches in all competitions. This must make him among the next few in the line for an England call-up, given both Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard earned call-ups despite playing less than ten Premier League games at the time. Ward-Prowse has proven himself over a much longer period of time.
Although he scored twice at the weekend against West Brom, Ward-Prowse will know his next step must be to improve his goal scoring record. In those 113 games for Southampton, he has scored only four goals.
If he can address the issue, he will certainly become a top player, and undoubtedly become a full England international in the near future.