After consolidating their position in the Premier League with a comfortable 14th-placed finish in their first season back in the top flight Southampton have kicked on in 2013/14 and in amongst the galaxy of international stars at St Mary’s, young English winger James Ward-Prowse is making a serious case for inclusion in the next England squad.
Ward-Prowse is 8/1 to score his first Saints goal of the season at Stoke, having rattled home in the FA Cup last year and for England Under-21s already in this campaign.
The Southampton academy graduate has featured in all of the fifth-placed Saints Premier League matches so far this term.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men have surprised many with their early charge up the top-flight ladder and Ward-Prowse has played a big part in their success.
He is the Saints’ second-most accurate passer behind Morgan Schneiderlin, with nearly 87 per cent of the teenager’s balls hitting their mark and has laid on 16 goalscoring chances for his teammates so far this term of which one was converted.
Despite only making his first appearance for England Under-21s at the start of September the 18-year-old has featured in their first four games with Gareth Southgate at the helm.
The former Middlesbrough boss clearly has high hopes for Ward-Prowse as he handed the Portsmouth native his debut in the European Championship tie against Moldova – the new coach’s first game in charge of the Young Lions.
He has now started all four of the underage team’s games under Southgate and scored the second – a cracking 20-yard free-kick – in his country’s 5-0 win against Lithuania recently.
Ward-Prowse has been used as a right winger and on the right side of a midfield three this season.
England are well-stocked in the right-wing department at the moment, with Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha both tried in the position of late and Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon on thier way back after injury.
However, Ward-Prowse has also slotted into the right side of midfield with ease on occasion this season – a position that no one player has nailed-down in Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere both suffered the disappointment of being dropped in the last two rounds of World Cup 2014 qualifiers and Ward-Prowse’s ability to cover in more than one position could see him overtake his more illustrious countrymen in the World Cup pecking order by the season’s end.