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Roy Hodgson identifies ‘big prospect’ for England squad

“He’ll be in our thoughts because we like him very much.” Who is England coach Roy Hodgson talking about? Well here’s a clue. He’s been a breakthrough player for his club this season that have once again flourished, exceeding expectations.

At 20, he’s just signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract with his club, and is a prominent fixture of the England Under-21 team.

This is of course, Southampton starlet James Ward-Prowse, who has hit the headlines with a string of performances which have been beyond his years, capping them recently with a captain’s performance for the Young Lions, including a winning strike against bitter rivals Germany.

Identified exclusively by Coral at the beginning of the season, as one of our players to watch, he is certainly living up to his billing, and England national boss Hodgson seems to agree.

His reasoning for not selecting Ward-Prowse is logical: “We’ve kept our hands off him simply because of the Under-21s, but we know he’s a big prospect.”

Well, Three Lions fans can expect to see him included in the senior squad, following the UEFA’s Under-21 European Championships this summer, which will provide a stage to dazzle, pitting him against some of the finest young players from around the continent, with the team 5/1 second-favourites behind Germany with Coral to emerge as conquerors.

Son of a barrister, 20-year-old Ward-Prowse was born in Portsmouth, raised as a Pompey supporter, though joined Southampton at the age of eight and hasn’t looked back. He is part of a ‘golden generation’ set to roll off the Saints’ production line, mirroring Manchester United’s David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, plus Gary and Phil Neville.

Soccer - Under 21 International - England Under 21's v Germany Under 21's - Riverside Stadium

An offer of a five-year-deal is a clear indicator of exactly what Southampton think of him. Ward-Prowse obviously has a big future. With the likes of promising left back Matt Targett (who has drawn comparisons to Gareth Bale), midfielder Harrison Reed, plus wingers Lloyd Isgrove and Sam Mcqueen, as well as a crop of other young starlets ready to be thrown into first team action, Ward-Prowse can be one of the shining lights for years to come.

He has recently been linked with a move to Manchester City in the summer, with manager Manuel Pellegrini (it remains to be seen whether he is still in charge at the Etihad) now saying he wants an English player to be his star signing.

Ward-Prowse has to choose what is best for his development as a player, however. There is no doubt, just from his decision making on the pitch, and tactical intelligence, that he has inherited the wisdom his father applies as a barrister.

Success isn’t a destination, it never has been; it is a journey and, for this young man, it is just beginning on the south coast. Offers from big clubs like City will come and go. A chance to be part of something special with like-minded individuals, trained for excellence in the same style is a rare gift. Take Barcelona of recent years as an example, and Xavi who blossomed late, though reaped the rewards of loyalty.