Is this Southampton youngster ready to break into the England squad?
James Ward-Prowse is one of the hottest prospects in English football, and is a regular in Ronald Koeman’s Southampton team. He is developing into an excellent central midfielder, so questions are starting to be asked if he is ready to hit the international stage. The Southampton youngster has made 35 appearances for England at youth level and has even captained the U21 team but is yet to receive a call-up from Roy Hodgson. However, the England manager hinted at a call back in April when calling Ward-Prowse a “big prospect” and saying “he’ll be in our thoughts because we like him very much.”
Ward-Prowse, 21, has spent his whole career at Southampton after joining the academy side in 2003 and was handed a full contract in 2011. Since then, the Englishman has made 86 league appearances in the top flight. Last season, Ward-Prowse played a part in every single Saints match up until the 20th September when he fractured his foot – ruling him out for 10 weeks. Despite this setback, he was offered a new five-and-a-half-year contract in January 2015, keeping him at the club until 2020. It was the 2014-15 season that also saw the midfielder score his first league goal – a spot kick against Hull City in a 2-0 victory.
In October 2015, England Under-21’s boss, Gareth Southgate, said: “The seniors is a realistic long-term goal for a lot of out lads. How long that takes is a case-by-case basis but for James that can still be a realistic mid-term target for him.”
So what does Ward-Prowse have to do to get him into the England Squad? First off, he has to be playing regularly for Southampton in the Premier League and show off the talent he possesses in abundance. Currently, Saints manager Ronald Koeman, has been using Ward-Prowse as a sub, to break into the England squad he will need to be starting week-in-week-out like he was at the start of the 2014/15 season. Secondly, the 21 year-old will have to perform when he plays for Southgates Under-21’s to prove he can do it on the International stage. And when he finally does get the chance in the senior squad, he will have to make a difference. There have been countless amounts of youngsters who haven’t performed for England when given the chance – Ward-Prowse can’t be another of those.
Looking further into the future for the England squad, the academy at Southampton is arguably the best in the country and should definitely be where the England management should be looking for the next big stars. It has been somewhat of a breeding-ground for young, English talent, producing players such as: Luke Shaw, Callum Chambers, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. And this youth system is not a recent success, in the past they have produced the likes of Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer to name just two.
Ward-Prowse will get his chance on the international stage, maybe even at Euro 2016, but for the time being, he will keep his feet firmly on the ground and move one step at a time.
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