In recent memory, Southampton‘s academy has produced some fantastic talent. The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and current Real Madrid star Gareth Bale have all been developed on England’s south coast.
Their academy graduates are often sold on for huge profits, justifying the incredible work which is clearly put in by both the staff and players. The club clearly places a huge emphasis on youth development, and they reap the rewards.
The current crop of youngsters at Southampton are all vying to become the club’s next star. Here’s five players who could be set for breakout seasons next year:
5. Jake Hesketh
At 22, Hesketh is hardly a youngster, yet he still finds himself struggling to emerge from Southampton’s academy. He made his debut for the senior team all the way back in 2014, but was unable to claim a permanent spot in the first team.
Hesketh was earmarked for greatness at the time, but injuries saw him demoted to the development side’s at Southampton once again. He featured again for Southampton’s first team in 2016, but was again disrupted by fitness issues as Hesketh failed to take his second chance.
However, the attacking midfielder has recently been showing glimpses of his impressive potential. He has been regularly creating chances for his teammates, and will be hoping for a third chance next season. This season certainly feels like a hugely important once for 22-year-old Hesketh
4. Yan Valery
Valery joined the club in 2015 and instantly became a key part of their Under-18 setup. His impressive form saw him quickly promoted the the Under-21 team, and Valery never looked out of place.
The 19-year-old Frenchman made 13 appearances for the Under-23 side last season and managed to register two assists as a right-back. He has been constantly improving with the team and has also been involved with the senior side this summer during pre-season.
He credited Southampton’s record with young players as a huge reason behind his move to the club, and will be looking to make his breakthrough next season.
3. Sam Gallagher
Gallagher, like Hesketh, has previously featured for Southampton’s first team. He made his debut in 2013 and went on to make 20 appearances for the side in all competitions. Several loan spells followed, but Gallagher struggled to make the most of the opportunities.
No goals in 15 games for MK Dons was the worst possible start for Gallagher, but his fortunes improved when he joined Blackburn Rovers. His 12 goals meant he was one of the few shining lights in the Blackburn side who were relegated to League One. His most recent loan spell saw him hit seven goals for Birmingham City, who barely avoiding relegation themselves.
Gallagher’s loan spells have not surrounded him with a huge level of talent, but he has still performed admirably, and he signed a new contract in 2017. The club are aware of his talent, and he has managed to get on the score sheet during Southampton’s pre-season. With Southampton struggling for goals last season, Gallagher may just get his chance to shine.
2. Josh Sims
21-year-old Sims is another who has had his chances with the senior side, but seems one of the most likely candidates to cement his place on a permanent basis. Sims made his debut in 2016 and, despite a handful of first-team appearances, has spent the majority of his time with the development sides.
He made six appearances last season, but generally had to settle for brief cameos. However, with the departure of Sofiane Boufal, there is room for another winger in the squad, meaning Sims may be given the chance to shine.
He has appeared twice during pre-season for the club, suggesting he will be given his chance in the team next year. He loves to run at defenders, and his ability to retain the ball is fantastic. He may prove to be the much-needed creative spark for Southampton next season.
1. Callum Slattery
Slattery has yet to feature for the first team, but has been on the radar of many huge clubs for a while now. He left Chelsea at eight years old to join Southampton, whilst Arsenal and Bayern Munich were reported to be interested in Slattery later down the line.
The box-to-box midfielder is viewed as one of the most exciting prospects in Southampton’s academy and, at 19, he may now be given a spot in the first team. He has been a key figure of the club’s development sides, and has even been vital to the youth teams in England’s international setups.
Slattery is a powerful midfielder who uses his stamina and technical ability to really make his mark on matches. The club are keen to integrate him with the first team and this season may be the right time for him. Even with the competition in midfield, Slattery has the ability to make an impression.