Academy manager Matt Hale has paid tribute to the raft of Southampton youngsters who have been recognised by their countries over the current international break.
Callum Slattery (England Under-20s) and Jack Bycroft (England Under-19s) are both away representing the Young Lions this week, while the likes of Christian Norton (Wales Under-19s) and Marco Rus (Romania Under-17s) have earned first call-ups.
It’s nothing new for the Saints Academy, admired by many clubs across Europe with a positive reputation that continues to grow, and the numbers show no signs of slowing down.
“If you’re one of our young players representing your country at whatever level – youth level or senior – it’s great recognition of the quality of that young player and what we’ve got in the system,” Hale said.
“I think we’ve got something like 30 or 32 lads who have been called up from under-15s to under-21s in the last 12 months, which shows the quality, and it’s recognition of the work they’ve done and the staff who have supported them.
“Callum has shown a great attitude this season. We know what he’s capable of. He’s had that opportunity with the first team and I’m sure that will come around again soon, as his performances continue.
“I’m delighted for him to be recognised again by the England setup, which is testament to that attitude and how he’s applied himself.
“Jack’s done tremendously well. We’ve felt for some time that he was at that level, and finally he’s got that recognition and been rewarded for his hard work and the continuous development he’s shown.
“He’s trained a lot with the first team and the first-team goalkeeping staff. He’s had some fantastic performances – both in our Under-18s last year and this year in the Under-23s. We’re delighted for Jack.
“It’ll be great for Caleb Watts (Australia) as well, one of our scholars who’s in the Under-23s, who will be in the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil at the end of the month – an unbelievable opportunity for him and a great experience.”
Last season saw Saints hand first-team debuts to five Academy graduates in Yan Valery, Tyreke Johnson, Kayne Ramsay, Marcus Barnes and Slattery.
With promising striker Dan N’Lundulu scoring freely for the Under-23s this season and being rewarded with a new two-year deal, Hale believes the next batch are not far away from fulfilling their dream of pulling on the red and white stripes in the Premier League.
“The likes of Dan, Jake Vokins, Will Smallbone and Callum have all been in and around that matchday squad, which shows the manager is happy with their progress,” he added.
“There will be others that will get that opportunity. International weeks like this give an opportunity for those lads in the Under-23s and Under-18s to go and train with them and be right in front of the manager and his staff.
“They’re good weeks where our players can show exactly what they’re about and hopefully get on the radar for the manager.”