Another pre-season goes by, another loan move for some of Southampton’s promising youngsters. Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull have once again moved out on temporary deals – Sam Gallagher is set for his first loan spell – but what does it mean for the careers of these potential stars?
Equally what does it mean for the future of Southampton’s squad?
Last season, Stephens and Turnbull were loaned out together to Swindon Town. The young pair went on to form a top partnership, in a side who narrowly missed out on League One promotion. Such a feat can only stand them in good stead. In fact, Turnbull left County Ground having won young player of the year, as Swindon failed in the play-offs. The long hard campaign and playing at Wembley would have worked wonders for the two young centre backs. Having become a fan favourite, Turnbull has since been loaned out once again to Swindon Town, where he will look to finish the job he started. However, Jack Stephens being older than Turnbull, has been loaned out to big spenders Middlesbrough, who under the safe hands of Aitor Karanka will look to win the Championship. With such pressure applied to the 21 year old, this will massively aid Stephens progression and help him reach the next step in his career, Southampton’s first team. The final bonus of Stephens’ selection is working under a manager of Karanka’s calibre; since joining up with the Spaniard, Middlesbrough have shown a clear philosophy of passing out from the back – similar to that of Ronald Koeman’s Southampton.
Then there’s Sam Gallagher who broke into the first team during Mauricio Pochettino’s ruling at Southampton. Granted, he got two goals during a string of substitute appearances and the playing time against Arsenal will no doubt prove valuable over time, but those on the South coast knew he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t a superstar and he wasn’t going to score 15 goals in the Premier League at such a young age, but that’s to be expected.
Despite this, he still found the development league too easy, scoring goal after goal when fit. His most glorious of all coming in the form of a 25 yard strike to win the Premier League cup final against Blackburn.
So, loaning him out makes sense. Southampton have found that level in-between the two.
Loaning him out to a progressive side such as MK Dons, who play beautiful silky football, under a young talented manager like Karl Robinson, is a master stroke. Benik Afobe and Patrick Bamford are clear evidence of MK Dons’ success with young forwards; Robinson has taken young talented players and turned them into sought after proven goal scorers. With Afobe smashing in goals at Wolves and Bamford now at Palace in the premier league, sending Gallagher to the Dons is a considered move by the club. A move that COULD turn Gallagher into the superstar that his potential promises.
Something that is strikingly similar about all three loanees, is that they feature in positions where you need to be ready for the highest standard of English football. As a striker you have to score goals regularly, its as simple as that. Goals win games and you only see young strikers thrust into the hustle and bustle of the Premier League if they are extremely talented.
The same goes for centre backs. These are two key positions, where you very rarely see youngsters. Sadly, the only time many clubs show their young players any sort of “trust” is when injury strikes, thus leaving the squad paper thin. So, for Southampton to send these 19, 20 and 21 year old’s out on loan is certainly no negative move by any stretch of the imagination.
It must also be noted that these are two positions where Southampton are rather strong; with another senior centre back still to come in and the likes of Pelle, Rodriguez, Long and Mane for competition, the youngsters would struggle to get worthwhile minutes under their belt. At the stage that Southampton so clearly see these players, it will only halt their progression if they refuse to offer game-time – nice move Southampton.
Finally, we have to take a look at who they have played with and where they have come from; after-all, this is the Southampton way. In the immediate first team squad you currently have 3 top quality youngsters who are showing early signs that they are ready for the top. James Ward-Prowse, Harrison Reed and Matt Targett are the most recent crop of fully fledged senior players. With Matt Targett comfortably slotting in at left back for the injured Ryan Bertrand, Ward-Prowse becoming a stat man’s golden boy and Reed injecting a so desired fight in the midfield, many now wonder who is next to stamp their place on the first team. The academy youngsters have worked with one another throughout their childhood, so to see their fellow friends be given that opportunity to succeed, shall only motivate them further ahead of their loan moves. With Southampton deeming Stephens, Turnbull and Gallagher worthy of high quality Football League game time, is it a sign of what may be their next step? That next step being the opportunity that Ward-Prowse, Reed and Targett have embraced.
For those however who still have their doubts about Stephens, Turnbull and Gallagher ( For being sent on loan ) then just take a look at some of England’s current hottest prodigies, Harry Kane and John Stones. Between 2011 and 2013, Harry Kane found himself on loan at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich City and Leicester City; Gallagher is currently just one year older than Kane was upon the Tottenham boys first loan move.
Throughout 2011 and 2013, Everton defender and Chelsea target John Stones gained his experience through two tough relegation battling seasons in the Championship with Barnsley; Stephens and Turnbull will arguably be featuring in more expansive sides at a similar age.
The point being that through Stones and Kane’s time in The Football League they gained invaluable experience, game time to match their current ability and the know how to make the step up to the Premier League.
With the way Southampton produce the young stars of the future, it should be a set of loan moves that fans can trust are at the heart of the clubs best interests. Surely it wont be too long before we see the majority of our squad once again being young, talented English players from our esteemed academy.