Southampton's Under 18's are through to the 4th round of the FA Youth Cup following a comprehensive 7-0 over last year's finalists Sheffield United. The score did not in any way flatter Saints, and in truth it could have been a lot more. It’s the first time I’ve seen this group of players in the flesh, but hopefully not the last. There’s been a lot of hype about this team recently, but they more than lived up to expectations, and it was well worth braving the rain to see them in action.
Among those in attendance at St Marys tonight were Chairman Nicola Cortese and manager Nigel Adkins. They were joined by a number of first teamers, such as Adam Lallana, Lee Holmes, Jack Cork, Danny Fox, Jos Hooiveld, Dan Harding and Kelvin Davis. There’s no doubt they would have been impressed by what was on show, but may also be wary that some of these kids could be taking their place in a few years. It was refreshing to see Jason Dodd’s side playing in exactly the same style as the senior team do. The youngsters kept the ball on the ground, overcoming treacherous weather conditions. The full backs got forward to support the attack, while the two front men Curtis and Sinclair worked as hard as anyone else, defending high up the pitch. Saints controlled the game from the first minute to the last, and the result never looked in doubt after Jake Sinclair netted after just 8 minutes. Calum Chambers, Jordan Turnbull and Sam McQueen added goals before half time, giving the hosts a four goal cushion going into the break. Saints could have been forgiven for slacking off at this point, but the intensity never dropped in the second half. The football was a joy to watch. Sinclair grabbed his second of the night immediately after the restart, before Curtis and Ward-Prowse completed the scoring.
A very enjoyable evening of football at St Marys. Jason Dodd said after the game “the lads played to perfection”. He was not far wrong. I thought every single player looked extremely comfortable on the ball and fit in well with the style of play we have in place. Nobody looked out of place, with everybody playing their part. In truth the defence was rarely tested, but it’s clear to see there is plenty of attacking talent in the side. Saints possess an embarrassment of riches in midfield at the moment, with the likes of Jack Cork, Dean Hammond, Morgan Schneiderlin and Richard Chaplow staring for the Championship leaders, but young James Ward-Prowse has the potential to be better than all of them. The Portsmouth born midfielder controlled the game tonight, dictating play in his role as a deep lying midfielder. At times his passing was Xavi-esq. I have absolutely no doubt that he will be challenging for a first team role within a year. He certainly won’t be the only one either. Jake Sinclair looks to be as talented as his older brother Scott, while the likes of Corby Moore and Joe Curtis also look extremely promising. Nicola Cortese has spoken of his desire to see more academy players making up the nucleus of the first team in years to come, and on tonight’s evidence there's no reason why his vision won’t be realised. This is a special group of players and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the upcoming years.
Steve Mowthorpe: 7. Had little to do for much of the night, but dealt with the few chances Sheffield United did have with ease. Handling and positioning were excellent.
Matt Young: 7. Linked up well with right-winger Calum Chambers, bombing forward just like his first team counterpart Frazer Richardson
Jack Stephens: 7. Rarely troubled defensively, but didn't put a foot wrong with the ball at his feet. Usually kept it simple in possession.
Jordan Turnball: 8. Very intelligent defender, who was comfortable bringing the ball out from the back and reads the game well.
Luke Shaw: 7. England Youth International has been linked to a move to Arsenal recently, and he didn’t disappoint tonight. Very assured display
Calum Chambers: 8. A handful all night on the right wing. Gave Sheffield United’s full back on torrid time, but also did well cutting inside.
James Ward-Prowse: 9. Set the tempo of the game, sitting just in front of the back four. Possess a great range of passing, capping a wonderful night off with a fabulous goal.
Corby Moore: 8. A great box to box display. Looked extremely comfortable on the ball, and was particularly impressive in the first half, making a number of defence splitting passes.
Sam McQueen: 8. Worked very hard on the left hand side, putting in a number of decent crosses.
Joe Curtis: 8. Very skilful display from a player who was also willing to get stuck in and defend from the front
Jake Sinclair: 8. A bundle of energy all night. Sheffield United struggled to cope with his electric pace and dribbling ability.
Connor O’Sullivan: 6. Continued where Shaw left off, and didn't do a lot wrong.
Fraser Colmer: 6. Had a fairly easy time of it, coming on for Matt Young with the game already won, but showed some decent touches
Dominic Gape: 6. Slotted in well for the excellent Corby Moore.