History Repeating Itself – Are Southampton The New West Ham?


Is history repeating itself  and have Southampton become the new West Ham?

Not surprisingly, the FA Commission’s first report has drawn plenty of comment. In a laudable effort to get something done it does rather skate over some major successes that have occurred with some young English players. One specific recommendation I would have made is to examine in more detail the reasons behind Southampton’s success in producing, national and even world class players – and to try and replicate those methods elsewhere.

Southampton – Star Makers Supreme

Looking back there has been Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. In the past couple of seasons, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez have broken into the England squad. There are too many for it to be a coincidence. Players like them who break through to the first team and at international level don’t just fall into your lap. For some time as all the howling about the reduction in the number of home grown players in Premier League first teams was growing to a crescendo, I was wondering what made Southampton different. If the stars align, with a bit of luck Southampton could be to England in 2014 what West Ham were in 1966.

On Saturday 10 May in the Daily Express I found an article by John Dillon which went a long way to explaining the Southampton phenomenon. The linking factor appears to be one man; Les Reed the former England technical director. The article says he helped to re-create the England production line after the club nearly went bust in 2009. He joined the club in 2010 after new owner Markus Liebherr “refined and improved the belief system” including a hi-tec training base in Hampshire.

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“Belief System”

The “belief system” involves the manager being prepared to pick the youngsters who the scouts and coaches have identified as having the potential to succeed in the first team.

It seems to me that it also needs the courage to stick by them if they make naïve mistakes and give them the chance to learn without banishing them to the stiffs. Mauricio Pochettino has done so at Southampton and I would suggest, so has Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and Roberto Martinez at Everton.

Refined and improved the belief system

Some might say that all three have been forced into that by thin squads and a lack of resources but there is plenty of evidence of other clubs taking the easy option of going for cheap proven foreign imports instead. Hence the FA Commission’s desire to restrict the number of foreign players.

The other part of Southampton’s “belief system” has been to reward the dedication and persistence of older players that have risen with them through the leagues, Ricky Lambert being the obvious example. His selection for the World Cup is widely regarded as a fairy story.

The Future?

Southampton manager, Mauricio Pochettino

Talking of fairy stories, Southampton are at a crossroads in their own story. If the team sticks together and the owner invests some of this year’s massive TV money in one or two stars, a trophy and Champions League place could be more than just a dream. Marcus Liebherr passed away though and despite protestations to the contrary from his daughter it looks as though they may become a selling club.

Pochettino has been linked with Spurs and Adam Lallana with Manchester United and Liverpool. Despite the potential benefit to Spurs I would love to see them stay and have Southampton established as a top 5 club down here on the south coast. If they do sell up though, I hope Pochettino brings Lallana with him to Tottenham. At least he’ll have European football with us and a manager he can trust to play him.

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