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COMMENT: Luke Shaw's rise highlights the huge mistake Arsenal and Fulham made
7:38am Friday 28th February 2014 in Sport
Too small for Chelsea, not fancied by Arsenal and Fulham. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but missing out on Luke Shaw looks a mistake.
A decade on, the little left-back they turned their nose up at has seen his fine form with Saints rewarded by a call-up to Roy Hodgson's England party.
The 18-year-old has been included in the squad to face Denmark at Wembley next week and, should he feature, only seven players in the post-war era will have made their debut at a younger age.
Such recognition highlights the impressive rise of the Surrey boy, whose first dalliance with a professional club came at Arsenal.
Part of the Gunners' development centre in Croydon and then Walthamstow, he joined Chelsea after their Premier League rivals decided not to include him in their 20-man academy squad.
From a family of Blues fans, it looked the dream move for Shaw, only for his dainty physique to see him fail to make the grade at their academy as well.
The left-back also spent a fruitless three-week spell at Fulham, before he was spotted at a tournament in Basingstoke by Saints, who, after a six-week trial, signed up the eight-year old.
It has proved a shrewd move for all parties involved and they - as well as England - owe a debt of gratitude to his parents, Paul and Joanna.
Up to four times a week over an eight-year period they took him down to Southampton's Staplewood training ground - a journey that would take an hour and 45 minutes each way on an average day.
Sometimes it could end up being a five-hour round trip but they did it to give their son a chance, not because they thought he would be a star.
In truth, Shaw was an average player until turning the corner aged 15. At that time, the left-back upped sticks and moved in with a family in Southampton, with whom he still lives, to continue his education on and off the field.
The decision quickly paid dividends, with Shaw becoming a regular for Jason Dodd's Under-18 side before being handed his first-team debut aged 16 in a 1-1 FA Cup draw at Millwall in January 2012.
It was quite the baptism of fire and, having featured in Saints' Capital One Cup ties at the start of the 2012/13, he was soon given a surprise Premier League debut at West Brom in November that year. Relegation-threatened Saints lost that match 2-0, but things have vastly improved for player and club since then.
Fast forward to today and Saints are a comfortable top-half side, while Shaw has made 56 first-team appearances. Not only that, the full-back is a match away from joining an elite group of players to rack up 50 Premier League appearances by the age of 18, joining Wayne Rooney and James Milner - players he may well now be on the plane to Brazil with.
Having impressed for Saints and Gareth Southgate's Under-21s, Shaw could now play in England's clash with Denmark on Wednesday. It is a chance to make the World Cup and a high-pressure situation in which the left-back is unlikely to wilt.
Not one to fret, he has little interest in the opponents. In truth, Shaw is more like your average 18-year-old than a Premier League footballer. Committed, grounded and a big fan of playing FIFA on his games console, he does not rock up to training in a flash motor - not because he could not afford one, but because he would rather focus on football than passing his driving test.
It is that drive and bloody-mindedness which highlights just why Shaw is tipped for the very top.
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