Former Southampton director of football and rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward says it was easy to spot the potential in former Saints youngsters Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott from an early age.

Woodward took up the role of performance director in 2005 then became director of football at St. Mary's in 2006, having guided England to rugby World Cup glory in 2003. 

Woodward got to take a close look at both Walcott and Bale during their time at Southampton before their respective moves to Arsenal and Tottenham,  and says their 'greatness' was evident from an early age.

"Whatever the sport, you can see potential greatness in individuals even when they are just kids," said Woodward, now Director of Elite Performance with the British Olympic Association.

"Gareth and Theo were just that, kids, when I was at St Mary's but their quality was evident even then as 16-year-olds.

"Gareth was a flying left-back, Theo a striker or winger. They both had obvious talent and were very exciting to watch, and it helped them greatly to be part of a tremendous academy side. 

If you look at that squad, you'll find players the vast majority of whom are in the Premier League or Championship today."

Bale's exceptional form this season - the Welshman has eight goals in his last six games for Tottenham and is currently the Premier League's third highest scorer - has seen him linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Walcott meanwhile is Arsenal's joint top-scorer in the Premier League alongside Santi Cazorla, and recently penned a new three-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners worth £100,000-per-week.

Woodward believes that despite the fact the pair now represent different clubs, Southampton have every right to feel proud when they step on to the pitch this weekend in the north London derby.

He said: "Gareth and Theo were the youngest, and you just sensed they were going to hit the heights.

"Right now, they are coveted stars, but people tend to forget the clubs who find, hone and develop such talents. 

"There are people at Southampton, or who were at Southampton when they were developing, who will feel tremendous pride when Gareth and Theo are in action this weekend."

 

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#Tottenham Hotspur
#Arsenal
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#Premier League
#Gareth Bale
#Theo Walcott