Southampton defender Luke Shaw might only be 17 years of age, but he's not short of admirers.

The teenage prodigy is the latest Academy graduate to come off the seemingly endless conveyor belt of young talent at St. Mary's, though Shaw is different to his predecessors - Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale, but to name a few.

That's because this south coast star is set to commit his long-term future to the club that gave him his big break, rather than seek an immediate move to one of England's elite after a breakthrough season.

Shaw, who turns 18 on July 12 (next Friday), will sign a five-year contract worth a reported £25,000 per week. Not a bad birthday present, I'm sure you'll agree.

So why is it that the Kingston-born full-back has opted to stay at Southampton when he could have moved to any one of Arsenal, Manchester United or boyhood club, Chelsea?

Well, for one thing, Shaw's cemented himself as Saints' first-choice left-back - and the importance of playing regular first-team football at his age cannot be underestimated.

Too often, players make the step up too soon, only for their careers to stutter and their development to stagnate.

Take Connor Wickham and Jonjo Shelvey as case in point - they moved on when they would have been better served staying at Ipswich and Charlton respectively as they looked to continue their football development.

But a crack at the 'big time' (and a lucrative multi-million pound contract) seemed too good an opportunity to miss, and they have subsequently failed to live up to their billing.

Sure, both players are playing Premier League football and are no doubt earning vast amounts of money, but you can't help but think they would be far better players had they learnt their trade with their previous employers.

John Bostock is another perennial underachiever, having left Crystal Palace at the age of 16 to join Tottenham.

With the nation's eyes all focused on England's 'next big thing', a lack of game time soon put an end to Bostock's progression - he's currently a free agent having been released by Spurs on June 10.

Perhaps Shaw has looked at these players and learnt from their mistakes. Speaking like a man far beyond his teenage years, Shaw recognises the importance of featuring on a regular basis.

"I think Southampton is the place to be for young kids like me," he told back in January

"I’m playing in the Premier League for the First Team and that is all anyone wants to be doing, so I just want to carry on."

And top flight football is a key factor behind Shaw's decision to shun the top four.

Having secured their Premier League status, the Saints are looking to progress once more with 'the project' moving into its next phase.

It's well-documented that Southampton's controversial executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, has big plans for the south coast side, as they look to ruffle a few feathers and mix it with the 'big boys', particularly in the transfer market.

Pablo Osvaldo, Victor Wanyama and Leandro Damiao are the latest high-profile players to be linked with a move to Southampton, and it's this level of ambition that has convinced Shaw he's in the best place possible.

"I have spoken with the Chairman about a long term plan for me at the Club," Shaw said after making his decision.

"To put an end to all the speculation, I will be committing my future to Southampton. I’m not going anywhere."

Shaw's form under Mauricio Pochettino and his predecessor Nigel Adkins has impressed many, and it's understandable that the Saints have had to fight hard to fend off interest in their latest Academy graduate.

But whilst the Saints are competing with the best in the Premier League and with the ambitious Cortese steering the south coast ship, there's no reason for Shaw to seek pastures new. 

Having made 25 league appearances in his maiden campaign and with Southampton's track record of producing and developing home-grown talent, it's clear that Shaw is at the right club at the right time.

All the noises coming out of everyone connected to Southampton Football Club suggest the Saints will march on to a successful future, and there's nothing to suggest anything other than Shaw being the man to lead the team into this new era.


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