Southampton's young stars are gearing up for a pre-season campaign
AT a glance, the transfer policy aggressively pursued by Saints and enflamed under Sport Republic’s backing may be construed by the club’s own academy stars as reason to be concerned.
After all, Martin Semmens, Rasmus Ankersen and co are trying to bring the best available young players to St Mary’s on long-term contracts – and as a matter of urgency.
The truth is that these are the youngsters who are often freaks of the Tino Livramento – mature beyond their years and Premier League ready – ilk.
Although the expected age of a breakout star is pushed lower and lower – also exhibited by Premier League 2 changing from under-23s to 21s as of this season – players develop at wildly different ages.
It has been the job of Matt Hale and Martyn Glover – with the help of highly-thought-of loan finder Danny Butterfield – to determine at what stage the home-produced gems are at.
If Joe Shields comes in from Manchester City to head up senior recruitment in place of Glover, as reported by The Telegraph, that will be another youth enthusiast in a top Saints role.
The players and representatives are aware of how the transfer policy, take 20-year-old centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap coming in to the first-team on a four-year deal, affects them.
Butterfield has a busy summer with a number of those on the cusp of breaking into Ralph Hasenhuttl’s thoughts requesting first or further loan spells as a matter of all-but non-negotiable.
Many of the youngsters have returned for pre-season, including Dynel Simeu, 20, and Kegs Chauke, 19, who, as reported by the Daily Echo, has signed a new two-year contract as of yet unannounced.
— Alfie House (@AlfieHouseEcho) June 10, 2022
🚨 Understand Kegs Chauke signed a new two-year contract with #SaintsFC yesterday. May not be reflected in retained list, depending on time it was lodged. ✍️
But Kegs is staying and now it's about finding a loan move. Ideally in EFL, few nibbles of interest but not concrete yet. pic.twitter.com/avLcPSenl2
The duo have been working with Hasenhuttl’s first-team in the early sessions while internationals, including 17-year-old Thierry Small, enjoy an extended break.
The Daily Echo understands all three of the aforementioned B team starlets are expecting a loan move this summer, if they are not assured a first-team role at St Mary’s.
Kazeem Olaigbe, 19, and Caleb Watts, 20, have already secured season-long loans to Scottish Premiership Ross County and League One Morecambe respectively.
Simeu, who spent last season with League Two Carlisle United, is expected to find a progressive move to either Championship or League One Level.
Small, who made his Saints debut in the FA Cup fourth round in February, will hope to land a move of similar level, despite his young age and limited senior action. Meanwhile, Chauke seeks a Football League move for his first experience.
However, what is more pressing to Saints than the level at which a player goes out is the people they will be surrounded by. Both on a development and human level.
That is why Ross County, managed by Malky Mackay, are a popular destination and have been trusted again with the Premier League 2 player of the season nominee Olaigbe.
Revealed earlier in the campaign after the young Belgian was one of a few youngsters to make his matchday squads, Hasenhuttl wants to see positional intelligence/discipline developed by the raw ace.
Loans could head down further the academy hierarchy as well, and not be just exclusive to those closest to a first-team berth.
Luke Pearce, who just turned 18-years-old last month, signed from Walsall at 16, has already built a reputation as a goalscorer across both under-18 and under-23 level.
In the loan market, goalscorers are the premium commodity as clubs look to fill typically the most expensive asset with a cost-effective move.
He is one suggested to the Daily Echo who could seal a first senior loan, despite his young age, but this would come later in the window when potential clubs’ needs are more pressing. Likely, he is rather set to lead the line for Dave Horseman in Premier League 2.
All young players will be waiting now to learn what their pre-season holds for them. The first-team head to Austria while Saints B head to Spain, in mid-July.
The hope for the likes of Simeu, Chauke and Small is to be in with the Austria group. That will be a potential indicator as to their role this upcoming campaign.
Saints have three pre-season fixtures lined up for the first-team so far, including Klagenfurt in Worthersee, Watford at Wealdstone and Villareal at St Mary’s.
The clash with the Spanish Champions League semi-finalists will be the final one before the Premier League season begins, and as such you should expect a strong squad for that one.
Saints are likely to arrange another friendly or two. Last campaign, they played Fulham behind-closed-doors, Swansea and Cardiff in Wales, and Levante and Athletic Bilbao at home.
The B team, meanwhile, have seven fixtures scheduled across an extensive warm-up to Premier League 2 – including Frome, FC Cartagena, Villareal B, Wycombe, Eastleigh, Watford 23s and AFC Totton.
A lot of those will be continued opportunities for the successful under-18 players, who last season won the Premier League South and just missed out on the national title to Manchester City.
Like Saints, other clubs across the Premier League are keen to poach the best youngsters in these category one competitions. Saints’ success puts them at the forefront of those conversations.
Goalkeeper Eddie Beach, 18, from Carl Martin and Mikey Harris’ side, has already completed a move to Chelsea this summer – signing a first professional contract.
The deal initially raised a few eyebrows, after it was announced via the Premier League retained list the promising Wales youth international had extended at Saints only on scholarship terms.
The shot-stopper is a unique talent. He only started playing in goal at under-16 level, and was a prolific midfield general before that – the figures are not exact, but he netted something like 189 goals in 171 games, the Daily Echo is told.
The Chelsea move is one that works for all parties, though. The Blues have a clear plan for Beach, and he will enter their development side – playing UEFA Youth League football this season.
Saints are blessed with goalkeepers at academy level, with the impressive Ollie Wright, Matt Hall and Jack Bycroft in the B team. Adli Mohamed and Josh Jeffries are set to take over at 18s.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Ireland international Gavin Bazunu is another one of those young stars – signed from Manchester City on a five-year deal this summer – for the first-team.
The plan includes good loans and a good programme for Beach, while Saints have been renumerated with a ‘significant’ fee. Relationships between Cobham and Staplewood continue to be strong.
Equally, the Daily Echo understands interest from Newcastle United in 16-year-old Tyler Dibling had at least reached tracking level as early as two months ago – when he scored a hattrick at St James’ Park.
The young forward impressed at Under-18 Premier League level during the season, although not starting the national final for now first-team coach Martin, and scored the treble incredibly in Premier League 2.
A potential wage package of £6,500 was reported by Football Insider for an unnamed Saints 16-year-old to make a move to the Magpies.
This claim is unverified, but wages at Saints academy are not near this level and would be largely impossible and impractical to compete with.
However, speaking to sources, the Daily Echo was told that level of wage would not be unheard of for a deal of this kind to a bigger or wealthy club – despite him being just 16.
While pre-agreement terms can be signed, a professional contract is not ratified by the FA until a player turns 17-years-old. Until then, it is on scholarship terms.
England youth international Dibling was given a spot in Hasenhuttl’s matchday squad for the trip to Brentford in the Premier League, around two weeks after his hattrick at Newcastle.
This was likely a deliberate show of pathway intent and belief from Saints to the youngster, and could have been a method to dissuade him from a more lucrative move.
With domestic scholarship players, there is lots of things taken into consideration for the size of a fee a club would receive as compensation.
Included in this are metrics such as: is the player a youth international, has he been involved with the first-team – etcetera.
It’s a fluid value that changes every year, and is based on case studies of previous packages, largely going up each season with player prices on the rise. If two clubs cannot agree on a fee, it goes to a tribunal.
Dibling’s inclusion in the first-team squad for a Premier League match could have also been another way of bumping up that metric, and protecting the value of the player.
Should Dibling – or any young scholarship player for Saints – be on the move before signing a pro deal, those are the processes that will be under way.
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