Sam Allardyce has hailed Saints as England’s leaders when it comes to producing young talent.

Both Saints and West Ham have a long and rich heritage of bringing youngsters through their youth system and into the first teams.

Ahead of the teams meeting at Upton Park tomorrow, Allardyce, pictured below, heaped praise on Saints for the way they have developed their youngsters.

He said: “We would look at Southampton and say that they are the main club in the country at the moment for producing their young players. “Irrespective of the players that they’ve sold, they’ve still got some outstanding young Premier League players. Probably more than anyone else in the country at the moment.”

The Hammers go into tomorrow’s game still without Andy Carroll, who is serving the last of a three match ban, but on an excellent run of form. They have won three in a row and kept four clean sheets on the bounce, which has lifted them into midtable.

“I think that from a clean sheet point of view it’s always been there until we had our real injury problems in December and January,” said Allardyce.

“Prior to that, we started the season with six clean sheets out of ten games. We had that spell where lots of players were injured, in defence particularly, and we lost that solid base.

“Our problem prior to that was scoring goals to win matches, to get more points and now the squad is bigger, better and fitter, we’re putting both ends together. We’re keeping clean sheets, scoring goals and I think that’s been a huge turnaround for the whole squad, the team and the club at this stage.

“There’s now quite a few players in the squad that haven’t started and want to start. It gives more competition for places.

“We’ve got Winston Reid who can’t get back in the side at the moment. Our new signings can’t get a game because since they’ve been here we haven’t lost a game. They’re finding it hard to get in from a starting basis because the players that are in at the moment are doing a fantastic job.

“They all need to be in it together because of what will happen between now and the end of the season and they will all play a part.

“We play Southampton on Saturday and that will be a tough game and a big test for us. “We’re a long way from being safe, a long way.

“There’s a long way to go in terms of trying to get safe so we must try and maintain the good run of results we’ve had over the last few weeks.”