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Clyne 'a better player' at Saints
Nathaniel Clyne has emerged as one of the great success stories of the Crystal Palace academy, but it did not always look like that was destined to be the case.
The 22-year-old Saints star, who will face his former club today for the first time since moving to St Mary’s last year, enjoyed a fine debut season in the Premier League last term and has now blossomed into one of England’s most promising young right-backs.
He is one of a number of diamonds to have been unearthed at Selhurst Park in recent years, along with players such as Wilfried Zaha, Victor Moses and Wayne Routledge.
But Clyne conceded that, as a teenager in the club’s academy, he was never tipped for stardom like the others were.
“I wasn’t really the one spoken about coming through the youth team,” he said. “I was more like the silent person coming through, and I had to work really hard to get myself into the reserve team and break through from there.”
Clyne had initially been with Tottenham as a youngster, but he made the move to Palace aged 14.
“It was more local and more convenient,” he said. “It was difficult after school, travelling all the way to Tottenham for training.”
It proved to be a good switch. Under the tutelage of the Palace coaches, and particularly the under-18 boss Gary Issott, Clyne progressed well.
“Gary’s the one that developed me as a player. I learnt a lot from him,” said Clyne. “I knew that if I could improve well at that club I would get my opportunity in the first team, and that’s what happened.
“It’s a good academy. A lot of players have progressed through their academy to play in the first team, like myself and a few others, like Wilfried Zaha and Victor Moses, who are also playing in the Premier League now. “You’ve got to credit the coaching staff at Crystal Palace for the progression of the youth players.”
After his emergence at Palace, Clyne was bought by Saints in the summer of 2012. He believes that, since arriving at St Mary’s, he has further improved in a number of areas.
“Definitely the mental side of the game,” he said. “I’m going into the game more confident in my ability to play and I think I’ve improved in an attacking sense. I’ve got myself forward more than I used to be, and I’m now helping create opportunities in attack.”
Clyne is by no means the only promising young full-back at Saints, though. Luke Shaw, on the opposite side of defence, is tipped for superstardom, while fellow 18-year-old Matt Targett shows great promise there.
Then there is Calum Chambers, also 18, who started the first three league matches this season in place of the injured Clyne.
“He is coming through and pushing me, really, to make me a better player as well,” said Clyne. “It is good to have competition. It is healthy for the team and it will only make me better.”
Clyne continued: “The club deserve a lot of credit as well, because a lot of players from the academy have got through into playing first-team.
“You can look at (Gareth) Bale as well, who has gone on to be one of the best players in the world now. It’s credit to the club.”
Clyne believes if other clubs were to place the same sort of emphasis that Saints and Palace do on nurturing their own talent that it could ultimately benefit the national team.
“You need players to play in the first-team England squad and for young players to be playing in the Premier League for them to get the call-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of players coming through and they just need to be given a chance really.”
Clyne, who was a regular fixture for the England Under-21 side, hopes at some stage he – and his cohort on the other side of the back four – will get the nod at senior level.
“If I keep putting in performances for my club, then who knows what could happen,” he said. “Luke has done brilliantly well as well. He’s good in attack and defence. If we keep putting in the performances then hopefully we could get the call-up.”
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