Gareth Bale. Theo Walcott. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Adam Lallana. What do these four players all have in common? Well, for one thing, they all made it big in the Premier League. Playing for one of England’s top six clubs at one time or another, these four players also made their names within their respective national teams.
Young Southampton Players to Watch For the Future
What they also have in common, though, is that they each are graduates of the Southampton youth academy. An academy renowned in recent years for not only popping out solid players for the senior Saints side but also producing players that go on to thrive in both the upper echelons of the footballing world as well as their own national teams.
But who will be next in this long line of star players? That is what we are here to try and identify. While picking and identifying youth players that will eventually grow into stars is not for the faint of heart, that is exactly the task we will try to accomplish with this article. So without further ado, here are some of the names you should watch for as Southampton continues to pump out its assembly line of future stars.
19-Years-Old – Right-Back – French
Currently playing for the Southampton U23 side, Yan Valery is a player that has quickly risen up the ranks at the Saints. Joining the club’s youth setup following some time in his native France, Valery spent a single season inside the Saints U18 lineup before earning promotion to the U23 side in July of 2017.
Since that time, Valery has made 34 appearances for the U23 side, assisting on three goals while also racking up three yellow cards as a right-back. Considering that the senior Saints side currently lacks a true second choice right back at the moment, it is not unimaginable that we could see Valery make his senior side debut in the not so distant future.
18-Years-Old – Forward – Irish/Nigerian
Quite possibly the biggest name on this list, Michael Obafemi has already made his senior debut for Southampton. Coming on as a late second half substitute last season against Tottenham, Obafemi almost managed to score what would have been a game-winning goal for Saints. Still, Obafemi did extremely well during his short cameo with Southampton’s senior side, potentially making him the most well known name on this list.
Possessing both pace and a true knack for scoring goals, Obafemi already has generated quite a buzz due to his performance for the Southampton youth sides. Having scored 15 goals in just 35 matches for both the U23 and U18 teams, Obafemi has also generated six assists during his time in the Saints youth setup.
Also of note for Obafemi is his early success with the Ireland youth national teams. Securing his first international cap for the U19 Ireland National Team last October, Obafemi has already opened his Irish account as he recorded his first international goal this past March against Kosovo.
17-Years-Old – Defender – English
Joining Southampton in July of 2017 from the Chelsea youth academy, Kayne Ramsey has begun to establish himself within the Southampton U18 team. Appearing in 16 games for the Southampton youth squads last season, Ramsey played well in both a right back and centre-back role.
Also adding a single goal and assist during the previous campaign, Ramsey is the type of player that Southampton can build around at the back. Possessing the ability to play at multiple positions as well as a history with a big club like Chelsea, many keen eye will be kept on Ramsey over the next year or two as he begins to truly develop his skills.
19-Years-Old – Midfielder – English
A true Southampton youth product, Callum Slattery has been part of the Saints youth system since he was eight years of age. Joining the U18 side in 2015 as a 16-year-old, Slattery quickly progressed his way into the U23 side, joining the older youth players just one year after his promotion to the U18 squad.
However, since then, the once extremely highly rated Slattery has seen his progress stall. Faced with an extremely competitive first team midfield, Slattery has not yet been able to break through the glass ceiling. With Southampton continuing to add to this positional group over the past summer, it seems unlikely that Slattery will find his breakthrough moment this season.
However, Slattery does not turn 20 until February. Still an extremely young player, Slattery has more than enough time to develop into the player many expect him to be. While I don’t see Slattery joining the first team on a regular basis for at least another season, look for Mark Hughes to potentially give him debut during this year’s Carabao Cup and FA Cup matches.
20-Years-Old – Centre-Back – English
Playing this season on loan with St. Mirren of the Scottish Premiership, Alfie Jones is taking part in his first venture outside of the friendly confines in Southampton. A tall and powerful centre-back, Jones joined the Scottish side on a season-long loan deal following a season in which he captained and appeared in 24 matches for the Southampton U23 side.
Gaining valuable experience in a top flight league, Jones looks set to continue his development this season before potentially joining up and becoming apart of the Southampton first team as early as next season. Given this is Jones first time with a senior squad, it will be interesting to see how the Englishman gets on this season and whether or not he proves that he’s truly ready for a regular role within the Saints senior squad.
18-Years-Old – Centre-Back – Austrian
Another tall centre-back in the Southampton youth system, Christoph Klarer seems like a player destined to one day make the Southampton first team. Playing for the U18 squad since July of 2016, Klarer made the jump into the U23 squad this past Summer. Adding to this is Klarer’s consistent promotion within the Austrian youth teams.
While he has yet to make his debut, Klarer will likely join the Austrian U19 side before too much longer. Still a few years away from becoming a potential regular with the Saints senior side, Klarer is a player with the intangibles and skills needed to be the next great Southampton academy product.
21-Years-Old – Forward – English/Jamaican
A player whose future looks questionable at the moment, Marcus Barnes is someone that fans have had their eyes on for years now. Unable to break through the glass ceiling, Barnes has spent quite a bit of time with the Saints U21 and U23 teams. Even a season long loan spell with League Two side Yeovil Town did not help matters for Barnes as he went on to make just nine appearances for the side, scoring a singular goal.
However, with all that said, Barnes is a player that could provide flexibility in the attack should he ever mature into the player some thought he could one be. Able to play along both wings and as a center forward, Barnes is someone that could easily be forgotten in a few years time or a player Saints supporters celebrate for years about.
18-Years-Old – Left Back – English
Another long-time Saints youth player, Vokins has been around the Southampton youth setup for a while now. Making his way up to the U18 side at the age of 16, Vokins spent two seasons spent the most part of two seasons with the Saints U18 squad. However, while Vokins was mainly a member of the U18’s, he did see some major game-time with the U23 squad during this same period.
Finally graduating full time to the U23 side this season, Vokins is a player that has both a solid defensive and attacking focus. Primarily a left back, Vokins has also moonlighted as a midfielder when needed. Recording a goal and four assists last season for the U18 squad, Vokins is an exciting player to say the least.
Still only 18-years of age, Vokins definitely has a bright future in front of him. While he still has some work to do over the next year or two to improve his game, it would not shock me to see Vokins eventually take over a role in the first team once either Ryan Bertrand or Matthew Targett depart the club.
18-Years-Old – Forward – Irish/Nigerian
Similar in style to his U23 counterpart and compatriot Michael Obafemi, Jonathan Afolabi is also an extremely exciting prospect. Playing for both the U18 and U23 sides over the last few seasons, the pacey striker has also made seven appearances and scored two goals for the Irish U19 National Team.
Making Afolabi an even more exciting prospect is his goals and assists record. Having played 20 games for the U23 side over the last few seasons, Afolabi has recorded five goals and four assists for the youth team. Add in the fact that Afolabi possesses the ability to play as both a winger and a striker and you have potentially another young forward for the Southampton supporters to be excited by.
19-Years-Old – Winger – English
A former Arsenal youth product, Nathan Tella spent just over a decade with the North London club before moving to Southampton in April of 2017. Joining up with the U18’s for the remainder of their campaign, Tella was quickly promoted into the U23 squad just a few months later.
Having his time with the Arsenal U18’s be hampered by injury, Tella found the fresh start he was searching for on the South Coast. Playing in just 15 matches for the Saints U23 side last season, Tella managed to record five goals and two assists for the Saints youth side, an outstanding number considering his age and positioning.
Possessing experience from his time with Arsenal, Tella is a player many Southampton supporters should keep an eye on. Should the Englishman replicate his form from last season for the Saints youth side, you should expect Tella to soon become a regular within the Southampton senior side within the next couple of years.