A Saintly Reward
by, 10-09-2012 at 06:27 PM (5327 Views)
May 2005. In the depths of relegation despair there was a shining light of hope. The academy, our jewel in the crown had crafted a team that reached the pinacle of the English youth game. The FA Youth Cup final. While a defeat to Ipswich Town was their unfortunate fate the future did look bright.
Two of these players have become full internationals and six have experienced Premier League football, yet only one of those achieved that at the club that set them on their way. An unused substitute in that final 7 years ago, Adam Lallana has bucked what became a very frustrating trend. Martin Cranie, Leon Best, Nathan Dyer, Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott all made it into the top flight after leaving Saints. While Bale and Walcott went straight into the limelight at neighbours Tottenham and Arsenal, Cranie, Best and Dyer had to take a more convoluted route. They very quickly fled Saints when it became clear that more money/fame/exposure could be obtained elsewhere. As David McGoldrick and Martin Cranie have found though, this route is frought with danger.
Administration, a player exodus, supporter unrest and uncetainty plagued Adam's early career. Thrown into regular first team football as part of Rupert Lowe's final flurry of eccentricity, the youth led dutch managed final season before administration, Adam Lallana was clearly a player who could hold his own at Championship level. Some of his contemporaries of the time, Oliver Lancashire and Lloyd James in particular were so obviously out of their depth, so Lallana shone as surely the next player to leave.
Astoundingly, he stayed. Despite interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers, who snapped up his academy counterpart Andrew Surman and Fulham. Adam Lallana was one of the leading lights as we advanced on an adventure under new ownership in League One. Fifteen league goals from midfield and a header in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final were instant reward as Lallana's stock rose even higher, yet as part of the new era we could afford to keep him.
Lallana adapted superbly to new manager Nigel Adkins' playing philosophy after Alan Pardew's cruel sacking. His technical ability and determination shining in an impressive and improving squad. Such was Adam's importance that he agreed a contract extension just before new year 2011, his agreement just as much a validation of our ambition and future vision as it was of Lallana's loyalty, Adam saw the bigger picture and his place within it. Promotion was won in impressive fashion that season and his seemless transition to Championship level football was no surprise.
Back to back promotions to the Premier league have led to some ruthless recruitment practices in the last month, to stay in the Premier League players of a certain quality are needed, Billy Sharp has already been moved on after only 8 months and captain Dean Hammond has joined Brighton. Adam Lallana has however impressed immediately. A man who has been with the club since the age of 12, a man who has seen everything a football club could ever expect in a decade, the good and the bad, a man loved by the fans is now reaping the rewards of his loyalty, professionalism and hard work. Not just a first team player, Adam Lallana is now filling the shoes of Dean Hammond as our captain and now incredibly, he is part of the England squad.
Fairy tales do not come as more profound in the mercenary world of modern football. Adam Lallana will probably not play tomorrow night but will gain valuable experience. We can only hope that his head will not be turned by being in the same squad as some more obvious bigger names; yet Lallana's star will surely only continue to rise. In a position where England has so many players that could have filled in Roy Hodgson has recognised Lallana as an option, it is rich, rich reward for a man who stayed loyal when leaving would have been understandable.
At a time when the free-scoring Rickie Lambert was being hailed as an England hopeful it is the less obvious, understated yet wonderfully talented academy product who is now on the national scene. He is a credit to everything our club stands for.