The Southampton FC Academy is the driving force behind the next generation of home-grown British footballers.
They are the organisation who turned the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the magical footballers that they are today.
With the club's head of football development Les Reed saying that Oxlade Chamberlain “was not an accident,” surely you can expect even more from this talent factory. Reed certainly thinks so saying that soon they'll maybe have “two Oxlade-Chamberlains in a single year, and then three.”
The principle of nurture and development has always been a key idea at Southampton, where even before the academy was introduced, the youth system produced international players such as Alan Shearer, Matthew Le Tissier, Mick Channon and Terry Paine.
However, with the introduction of the academy system in the late 1990s, they have taken this to another level. The club certainly thinks long term, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been at the club since he was seven, Bale since he was nine, Walcott since eleven, and so on.
The idea of a self-sufficient club was the vision of many a chairman and has been carried on through the years. But the club took a falter when its parent company went into administration in April 2009 causing the club to be docked 10 points, making certain their relegation to League One.
This could have potentially caused the academy system to be scrapped in a bid to save money.
However, with the takeover by Markus Liebherr in July 2009 and the installation of Nicola Cortese in charge of the club's business interests, the self-sufficient club vision returned stronger than ever.
With both Cortese and Liebherr backing this as they way to success.
Now Southampton are back in the Premier League and looking stronger than ever.
With the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as manager securing their position in the Premier League the next season. They are reaping the long-term benefits of the belief placed in the academy system.
The academy has many benefits for Southampton; it brings in crucial talent and players for a cost worth much less than it would be to buy players of the same quality.
It also gives much needed profit to the club, by selling big money players to clubs such as Arsenal. This allows the club to build their team in other ways, such as the signing of 2011-12 Crystal Palace Player of the Year Nathaniel Clyne.
The academy looks like as good a way as any to push the club higher and higher in British football. And considering the quality of players that have been produced and the confidence shown by the club, it looks like it will get even better with time.
The system praised by Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas as falling “into the same category as Sporting Lisbon, like Barcelona, which is to nurture” also calling it “a great school of development” must be doing something right. But will the club be able to become like Barcelona and thrive on its own-bred talent? Only time will tell.
Southampton Academy Graduates:
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