For years at Southampton, the name of the game was developing young players and watching them thrive. Players like Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, and Gareth Bale all began their careers inside the Southampton academy. Despite all of these top names, the Saints academy has become extremely quiet in recent years.
Attempting to fill their voids through the transfer market instead, the youth academy quickly lost its sparkle. Under the leadership of Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino, and Mark Hughes, the worldly known Southampton Academy was left by the wayside.
However, that has all changed under Ralph Hasenhuttl. Named as manager back in December, Hasenhuttl has already returned the Saints Academy to the forefront of the club’s development. Given Southampton’s current predicament, many would believe that this is a risky proposition. For the Austrian boss though, this was truly the way forward.
Academy Stars Succeeding Again at Southampton
Helping establish Michael Obafemi, Callum Slattery and Yan Valery as first-team regulars, Hasenhuttl has also given a number of players their first appearances in the first team. This includes Kayne Ramsay, Alfie Jones, Marcus Barnes and Tyreke Johnson, all of whom have made at least one appearance on the Southampton team sheet.
Moreso, the above youth stars look set to continue in their roles with the first team for years to come. Unlike in years past where youth was only utilized in cup matches and friendlies, Ralph Hasenhuttl has made a point to consistently include the above mentioned players in both training as well as his matchday plans.
Of course, the above list fails to include a number of current youth stars that could be in line to eventually join up with the first team; youngsters like Jake Vokins and Nathan Tella just to name a couple. Under Hasenhuttl, these young stars finally have a chance to shine.
While this movement may be seen as a foolish one considering Southampton’s position near the bottom of the table, it is something Saints have succeeded with before. Entrusting young academy stars with first-team responsibility was key in Southampton’s rise from League One to the Premier League.
In fact, it was that strategy that eventually helped propel Southampton into the Europa League. Allowing many of their former Academy Stars to depart through big money transfers, Southampton built up an extremely impressive squad.
Looking towards both the present and the future, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl knows the way forward is through the academy. Unable and unwilling to pay huge fees in the transfer market, Hasenhuttl is looking to lead Southampton forward with the help of its youth academy. Something that will undoubtedly provide chances for youth stars to shine once again.