In the last ten years Southampton’s youth development set-up has produced talents such as Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathan Dyer, Kenwyne Jones, James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers. Twenty-five year old Adam Lallana is another prime example of the excellent work being done behind the scenes at St Mary’s.
Ex-Chairman Rupert Lowe must take a lot of credit for the academy having hired Huw Jennings (now managing Fulham’s U-18′s) to run it initially. Lowe also lured Georges Prost from Marseilles. Prost was brought in to act as technical coach to the youngsters. In a somewhat unfamiliar approach Lowe believed that with Prost’s help Southampton could turn most young ‘athletes’ into footballers.
“We didn’t select players on their footballing ability” said Lowe, speaking in 2012. “We selected them on athleticism and on intelligence. We thought we could do the rest ourselves.”
Adam Lallana does not fall into that particular category. Born in St Alban’s, just north of London, Lallana’s family moved to Bournemouth when he was just five years old. Lallana was always a clearly talented player with great ball-control, very quick feet and the vision to make passes that others would not always see.
Signed as a youth player by the Saint’s in 2000 Lallana came through their youth development process over the next six years before signing his first professional contract in 2006, aged seventeen. During those years with Georges Prost as his technical coach Lallana did a lot of work on being comfortable, and effective, when using either foot.
“That was where the success began with Southampton producing this generation of young players” said Lallana speaking to the Mirror two weeks ago. “We used to do technical sessions, day-in and day-out, but always on your left and always on your right. Looking back I feel that those two or three years of doing my scholarship is where I developed massively into not thinking about what foot you use and it became second-nature. Its a good quality to have.”
This was done to such an extent that Lallana says he no longer remembers which is his ‘favourite’ foot. He can use his left or his right without a second thought, a trait which is all too uncommon in football at all levels.
It was George Burley who gave Lallana his first-team debut in a 5-2 League Cup victory over Yeovil Town back in 2006. This was four months after a young Gareth Bale had burst onto the scene for the Saint’s. The following season Lallana spent some time on loan back at his home-town club in Bournemouth.
In 2008 Lallana became a regular starter for Southampton. He made forty Championship appearances in what was a poor season, ending in relegation to League One. Lallana really shone through in League One however scoring twenty goals in all competitions the following season. Southampton just missed out on a playoff place having been deducted ten points at the start of the season for ‘breaching insolvency regulations’.
The following season Lallana and co achieved automatic promotion back to the Championship, finishing second. Lallana had chipped in with another eight league goals along the way. By now Lallana had also struck up a great understanding with Southampton’s talismanic front-man, Rickie Lambert. Lallana played no small part in helping Lambert to bang in twenty-one league goals.
Southampton achieved back-to-back promotions finding themselves in the Premier League for the start of the 2012/13 season. Now in his second season in the Premier League, Lallana so far this campaign has made thirty-six appearances, scored nine goals and got six assists. Southampton are in 8th place as this term comes to a close. Lallana and his team-mates, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez are all pushing for a place in Roy Hodson’s squad for Brazil this summer. Such has been the form Lallana has displayed that himself and left-back Shaw seem to be the most likely to make that squad.
Lallana looks back on his career-to-date with fondness. He may not have exploded onto the scene like Walcott, Bale and Oxlade-Chamberlain but he appreciates that his experiences to date have made him the player he is today.
Again speaking to the Mirror Lallana said “It has been a gradual process, and I think I have benefited from the route I have taken. I have played on cold, wet nights at the end of the earth in midweek, and it is character-building stuff, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s all part of the learning process, but if there are people who are trying to whack you and smash you off the ball, it probably means you are doing something right.”
Adam married his fiance Emily on Christmas Eve last year. They had originally set the date for June 14th this year. However his plans on that day may now include featuring in England’s World Cup opener against Italy. Getting married was the first of many a big decision that Lallana is set to face over the coming months. With rumoured interest from Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, the Saint’s midfielder will be asked to take his pick if all the relevant parties agree to meet Southampton’s valuation of him (€20-25 million if you believe the stories).
All this plus the small matter of a World Cup finals for Lallana to occupy himself with over the summer. Choose wisely Adam….