Alan Shearer, Matthew Le Tissier and Mick Channon. What do these three have in common?
All three legendary players started their careers at Southampton Football Club and consequently went on to play for England.
Recently, the renowned Saints academy has produced talented internationals such as Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All these players shone at Southampton before making big-money moves to Tottenham and Arsenal respectively.
So what are Southampton doing that other clubs aren't? The south coast club take great pride in their record for producing young talent, and there are yet more examples in the current first-team which suggests the never-ending conveyor belt of home-grown stars shows no signs of slowing.
What few people may have realised is that Southampton now have a fairly well established English core hovering around their first-team.
The talismanic Adam Lallana has already been called up to the national team and given his impressive performances across the divisions for Southampton, his call-up was more than justified. The tricky midfielder provides a different edge to the national side and could be an outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad for Brazil 2014.
Rickie Lambert is another English talent who has been touted for an international call-up, with sections of the media believing Lambert has earned the right to be considered by Roy Hodgson. The big target man has scored 11 goals this season, but don't let his stature fool you. Lambert is so much more than an aerial presence - he has the ability to pick a pass and his all round game is first-class.
When people speak of historic English centre-back partnerships, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry always get a mention, whilst some have tipped Manchester United's Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as the future. If this is the case then Southampton's Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne could be the two players either side of the defensive duo.
Shaw and Clyne, 17 and 21 respectively, have shown talent beyond their years when exposed to first-team football this season. Clyne, a graduate of the Crystal Palace academy, gave a remarkable performance in the opening day defeat at Manchester City and since then has gone on to prove himself to be one of the best full-backs in the division.
Shaw’s progression is even more impressive, and recently he has been turning heads with some fantastic performances that have earned him the label of the "next Gareth Bale". Such form has prompted the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea to register their interest in Shaw, with the latter acknowledging his potential early on, placing a £4m bid for his services back in July 2012, before Shaw had even made a first-team appearance.
An equally talented prospect from the academy comes in the shape of central midfielder James Ward-Prowse. The 18-year-old has already appeared eight times in the league this season and the Southampton management trust in his ability. Ward-Prowse, who recently signed a long-term contract extension with the club, possesses a natural ability on the ball and shows composure that is far beyond his years that instills confidence in those around him.
Two other Saints academy prospects worth keeping an eye on are centre-back Jack Stephens and winger Calum Chambers. Both have impressed during games with the youth set-up and perhaps, like Shaw and Ward-Prowse a move to the first-team is on the cards before too long.
It would be a little harsh not to give a passing mention Jay Rodriguez and Jack Cork too. The former Burnley forward hasn’t set the world alight since joining in the summer but he has still managed to notch up six league goals this season. At just 23, Rodriguez is still one for the future and under Lambert’s guidance there is every possibility he could blossom into a future England star.
For Cork, it seems that things are starting to go right after a frustrating time at Chelsea. A product of their academy Cork was looked upon favourably by the Stamford Bridge faithful but in a similar fashion to Scott Sinclair, decided to move down a league in order to increase playing time. After taking in numerous loan spells at Watford, Scunthorpe and Burnley, he opted to sign for Southampton on a permanent basis in the summer of 2011, going on to become a key feature in Mauricio Pochettino's midfield. It might not be too long before he is given some international recognition.
It would be a little premature to place these players in the same category as England stars such as Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney or even Jack Wilshere, but the potential for these players to become regular features in England squads of the future is definitely there.
As Southampton continue to build their squad around a core of young English talent, don't be surprised if the Saints play a key part in the future of England on the international stage.
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