Southampton is a prime example for other clubs in England that faces financial trouble or other sort of behind-the-scenes trouble, on how to overcome those problems. Back in 2005 the club was relegated from the Premier League after 27 years in the top flight, then they were relegated to League One (with a 10 points deduction) amid financial difficulties back in 2009. Fast forward three years later, The Saints were back in the top flight having won back-to-back promotion in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
This season Southampton looks set to improve from their 14th place finish last season and might challenge for a Europa League spot. Their strong performance is also a testament of their academy system, having produced the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, The Saints currently have Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and James Ward-Prowse among others in their squad. With the World Cup on the horizon, let's take a look at some of those talent and talk about their chances of going to Brazil.
(If you missed our previous coverage of England Hopefuls, click here for Arsenal, here for Chelsea, and here for Manchester City, don't worry we'll wait while you read.)
The Saints skipper is the poster child for Southampton's academy, having seen the likes of Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott departs for North London, Lallana stayed at Southampton through the relegation to League One and the successive promotions. This season in the league he scored 7 times coupled with 5 assists, he's able to play across the midfield though he prominently features on the right side of midfield. His performance this season earned him a call-up for the national team, featuring twice in the friendly against Chile and Germany, and though England lost both game, Lallana did well to show Roy Hodgson why he should be part of England's future squad.
On the plane or on the beach? If Roy Hodgson really needed a workhorse with high energy and intensity and able to play across the midfield, Lallana is the man. Plus he can chip in with the odd goal as well. If he can maintain his performance, I think he will make the squad.
Rickie Lambert's tale is one of a lower-league nomad, having previously played for the likes of Macclesfield Town, Stockport County, Rochdale, and Bristol Rovers before joining Southampton in 2009. Since then, his goals have been crucial in Southampton's return to the Premier League. Last season he scored 15 goals in the league, which made him the highest scoring striker among other English strikers. This season his rags to riches story continues with a call-up from the senior side against Scotland, in which he scored the winning goal. He add to that tally by scoring another goal against Moldova in the World Cup qualifiers.
On the plane or on the beach? With the lack of English strikers (which you can read more here), Lambert has a very good chance of making the squad. His 2 goals in 4 appearances for the national team only add to his credentials as a striker you can rely on for goals. Therefore, I think he will be going to Brazil.
Along with Lallana and Lambert, Rodriguez was also one of The Saints trio that was called up by the national side recently. He made his debut against Chile in a 2-0 loss, though he did not play as well as Lallana. So far this season he have scored 10 goals in the league, putting him second behind Daniel Sturridge, the top scoring English striker. For Southampton he featured prominently on the left midfield/forward area, where he uses his dribbling skill to cut inside. Another player with an outside chance of going to Brazil.
On the plane or on the beach? A tricky one here, with strikers at a premium and 10 goals already this season, Rodriguez could be England's back-up striker. However based on recent squad for the World Cup in 2010 & Euro 2012, England will probably take around 4 forwards. Rooney and Sturridge are near certainty to go, while his club mate Lambert is also likely to get the nod. The remaining spot will probably go to Welbeck and another winger type player such as Andros Townsend or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The friendly against Denmark (should he be called up) can boost his chances later in the summer. But based on current situation, he's likely to be chilling on the beach.
Luke Shaw is probably the hottest England prospect with numerous Premier League clubs eager to sign him. Having made his first team debut at the age of 16, this season Shaw has been ever present in the left side of defense for The Saints. Stats from Squawka.com shows that he is one of the top left back in the league, averaging nearly 5 clearances a game while winning his fair share of duels. For a player who is only 18 years old, he's definitely looking like the real deal.
On the plane or on the beach? While his performances in the league has been impressive, this World Cup might be a little to soon for him, especially with England having at least 3 other left back who is more experienced and have established themselves in the league in Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole, and Kieran Gibbs. He will miss this one, but there should be plenty more World Cups in his future.
If Luke Shaw is England's future left back, on the other side of the pitch Southampton also have another exciting prospect in Nathaniel Clyne. The 22 year-old right back is a product of Crystal Palace's youth system with more than 100 appearances for the club. In the summer of 2012, he signed for newly promoted Southampton, making 34 appearances in the league. This season he have only featured 17 times in the league, with competition from Calum Chambers. Though his appearances thus far has been limited, he have 4 assists to his name, which is higher than Kyle Walker or Glen Johnson.
On the plane or on the beach? Though it is likely that he will miss this summer's World Cup, injury to Glen Johnson (though he looks to be returning to action soon) might just opened up a slight chance for Clyne, at least for the upcoming friendly against Denmark. Should Johnson's injury woes continue, he could be in the squad although Roy Hodgson would probably prefer Chris Smalling there. Ultimately, I think he will sit this one out.
Currently in his second spell with Southampton, where he joined them on loan for the first half of the 2008/09 season, one of his six loan spells with Chelsea. Cork then signed for Southampton on a permanent basis in 2011, helping them in achieving promotion to the Premier League. Cork have only played 17 times in the league (11 as a starter), though his numbers in terms of tackles won and passes completion are comparable with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, or Tom Cleverley. However England's abundance of centre midfielders probably will block his path to the senior side, at least until the end of the World Cup.
On the plane or on the beach? Despite the stats, Cork will miss out on going to Brazil based on the fact that he is not a regular starter for Southampton.
Not content with having one young exciting right back in Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton also have Calum Chambers in their squad. This season the 19 year-old defender has given Clyne a run for his money at the right back spot. Having played 15 games in the league already this season, his numbers according to Squawka.com might suggest that he's actually better than Clyne, having won more tackle and aerial duels (by a landslide). Southampton is blessed to have him and Clyne competing for that right back spot.
On the plane or on the beach? He's definitely going to be on the beach cheering for England and his Southampton mates, despite competition for the right back spot he might have a chance to be an England regular somewhere down the line.
Another Southampton academy product, James Ward-Prowse is a 19 year-old midfielder able to play on the centre or on the right. This season in the league he have played 24 times though most of those appearances were as a substitute. In that 24 appearances his passing definitely catches the eye, with 32 chances created and 30 key passes to his name (per Squawka.com). Definitely one for the future.
On the plane or on the beach? On the beach, but imagine that in Euro 2016 or World Cup 2018, he could be just one of possibly five saints player going to the tournament. That's incredible and again, a testament for the club's academy and youth development.
Think Luke Shaw should go to the World Cup? Or that Southampton's crop of youngsters are overrated? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!