Bale, Shearer, Le Tissier: 12 top players to emerge from Southampton's academy

  • Kobe Tong
Bale on the ball for Southampton.

Glenn Hoddle might only have been Southampton manager for just over a year, but in that time, he still got a front-row seat for one of the best academies in the English game.

It’s no secret that the Saints have a knack for bringing top-class talent through their youth ranks, often collecting eye-watering transfer fees further down the line when the ‘big six’ clubs comes knocking.

But if you think that the time of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Luke Shaw was merely a golden era for the conveyor belt of talent on the south coast, then you’re very much mistaken, because it’s been going on for decades.

Hoddle and Bridge at Southampton

So when Hoddle commanded the technical area at The Dell in 2000 and 2001 between his spells with England and Tottenham Hotspur, he saw more than a few top talents climbing up the club’s rungs.

And during a brilliant appearance on the High Performance Podcast earlier this year, Hoddle gave fascinating insight on one example in particular: Wayne Bridge.

A future Chelsea and Manchester City star who would go on to amass 36 caps for England, Bridge cut his teeth as a young Southampton player where Hoddle and his trusty sports psychologist, John Syer, contributed to his development.

Hoddle managing Southampton.
20 Jan 2001: Southampton manager Glenn Hoddle during the FA Carling Premiership game between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton at White Hart Lane, London. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT

Hoddle on developing Bridge

Hoddle explained to Jake Humphrey and Damian Hughes how the work that him and his team conducted with the Saints helped to make young players like Bridge believe in themselves more and really grow in confidence.

“I took John with me to Southampton when I was a manager and there was a lot of great work we did there,” Hoddle reflected. “And the players took to it eventually. And I saw players blossom.

“Like it happened in the ’80s with Tottenham, I saw it happen to particularly Southampton. The players took to it. I saw a young Wayne Bridge who was 17 years of age. Wouldn’t say wonderful talent, didn’t know he was a wonderful talent. Wouldn’t say boo to goose.

Read more: The High Performance Podcast hub

“And suddenly he [John] made us have these big, big meetings where you had to say something. So the pencil would be handed round and it come to Bridge. He’d be all red. He’d go red. He’d be really uncomfortable. But he said something about the game at the weekend or whatever. Even if he said: ‘Oh, I didn’t like training today,’ we made him talk.

“Suddenly, three months, four months, five months later, he was expressing himself. He was talking, what the team needed. He flourished and he’d become a terrific player. As we all know, went on to play for England, blah, blah, blah.”

It really is fascinating to hear a case study like Bridge’s where, yes, he was a fantastic young player identified by Southampton in the first place, but one who also had his potential unlocked through his experiences in the first team.

Bridge in his Southampton days.
19 Sep 1998: Wayne Bridge of Southampton in action during the FA CArling Premiership match against Tottenham Hotdpus at The Dell in Southampton, England. The game ended in a draw 1-1. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Other Southampton prodigies

However, as we’ve already alluded to, Southampton’s frighteningly good record of spotting, nurturing and developing the stars of the next generation goes far beyond Hoddle’s 14-month stint.

If anything, the fact that the Tottenham legend became so aware of the Saints’ impressive pools of young talent in such a short space of time is a testament to just how much the club takes pride in its academy.

So, let’s widen the net and transcend eras by looking at the crème de la crème of top-class players past and present who, like Bridge under Hoddle’s tutelage, rose through the ranks at Southampton.

No doubt some big names are already coming to mind and they will indeed appear, but trust us when we say that there will still be plenty of surprises along the way with no less than 12 stars getting a showcase.

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12 stars who rose through Southampton’s ranks

And without further ado, here are the superb footballers who went onto make a lasting impression on English football and beyond having learnt their trade at Southampton…

1. Alan Shearer

Right then, let’s show how much we mean business by kicking off with a former England captain who’s scored the most goals in Premier League history and even moved for a world-record transfer fee along the way.

However, it was across six years at The Dell that Shearer learnt his trade, eventually going on to make over 150 first-team appearances for the club and scoring 43 goals for good measure.

Shearer as a Southampton youngster.
SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 01: Southampton striker Alan Shearer pictured during a First Division match in 1988 in Southampton, England. (Photo Simon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images)

2. Theo Walcott

Walcott’s career might never have reached the dizzying heights once expected of it, but we are nevertheless talking about a 47-cap England international with more than 100 goals for Arsenal who broke through at Southampton.

3. Adam Lallana

From the Saints academy to captaining the first team, Lallana represented his boyhood club in both League One and the Premier League, before moving on to Liverpool where he won the Champions League.

Lallana scores for Southampton.
SOUTHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 25: Adam Lallana of Southampton celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Carling Cup second round match between Southampton and Birmingham City at The St Mary’s Stadium on August 25, 2009 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

4. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Speaking of players winning the Champions League with Liverpool, Oxlade-Chamerblain has won everything there is to win as a footballer based in England having made his way to Anfield via the Saints and Arsenal.

5. Tyrone Mings

Did we get you with this one? It’s easy to forget that Mings, who would go on to captain Aston Villa and currently boasts 17 caps for England, actually spent a huge chunk of his youth career on the south coast.

6. Kevin Phillips

A European Golden Shoe winner, no less, Phillips didn’t initially break into the Saints’ first-team having started out in their academy, but eventually returned to Southampton for two seasons to score 26 goals between 2003 and 2005.

7. Matt Le Tissier

The man who needs no introduction. Le Tissier might well be the greatest player to have ever pulled on the red and white stripes, enduring as a one-club man with more than 500 appearances and 209 goals, including the very last strike at The Dell.

Le Tissier in his early Southampton days.
Matthew Le Tissier Southampton Stock Season 89/90 Pic : Action Images

8. Ben White

While the Arsenal star and England international might have finished his youth career with Brighton & Hove Albion, it was actually at south coast rivals Southampton where he spent the most time in an academy.

9. Luke Shaw

Shaw became the most expensive teenager in football history when he swapped Southampton for Manchester United in 2014, proceeding to play over 200 times for the Red Devils and scoring in the Euro 2020 final.

Shaw playing for Southampton.
Football – Norwich City v Southampton – Barclays Premier League – Carrow Road – 12/13 – 9/3/13 Luke Shaw – Southampton Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

10. Dennis Wise

Forever associated with his time at Chelsea that brought FA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup glory, Wise’s stint in Southampton’s youth ranks before his breakthrough at Wimbledon is too often forgotten.

11. Gareth Bale

Remarkably the second player on the list to have moved for a world-record transfer fee during their career, Bale could well be the most famous Southampton academy product in history – and for good reason.

Wales’ all-time record goalscorer won two PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards at Tottenham Hotspur, before moving to Real Madrid where he won four Champions League titles, scoring in two of the finals. Madness.

Bale scores for Southampton.
Football – Derby County v Southampton – Coca-Cola Football League Championship – Pride Park – 06/07 – 6/8/06 Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring Southampton’s first goal Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Michael Regan

12. Calum Chambers

While Chambers might not be the most glamorous name on the list, there’s no denying that he’s used his education at Southampton as a launchpad for a successful career that’s featured three FA Cup wins at Arsenal.

13. James Ward-Prowse

The potential ‘Next Le Tissier’ with Ward-Prowse having hitherto kept links to ‘big six’ clubs at arm’s length, Saints’ captain is bearing down on David Beckham’s record for the most free-kick goals in Premier League history.

Ward-Prowse as a Southampton starlet.
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 25: James Ward-Prowse of Southampton in action during the Carling Cup Fourth Round match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on October 25, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

A proud record

Sure, nobody’s shocked to see that Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers came up through the youth system at St. Mary’s Stadium, but no doubt the appearances of players like Mings and White caught a few of you out.

However, that’s nothing to be ashamed of because it’s merely an illustration of just how much of the young talent we see in the English game comes out of what is ultimately a mid-table Premier League side.

And to think that proud history is one that can be traced from the Ralph Hasenhüttl era back through the 21st century all the way to Hoddle’s time in charge, and even further back to when Shearer was making a name for himself.

We can’t wait to see which top stars emerge from the south coast in the years to come.

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