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The rise and rise of Saints starlet Luke Shaw
Updated 2:59pm Monday 12th May 2014 in Sport
Luke Shaw's rise shows no signs of abating, with the precociously-talented teenager securing a place in England's World Cup squad at the expense of the man he grew up idolising, Ashley Cole.
A decade on from being turned down by boyhood club Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham, his exquisite form with Southampton has seen him handed a ticket to Brazil aged just 18.
England manager Roy Hodgson only handed Shaw his senior debut two months ago in the 1-0 defeat of Denmark, but has seen enough from the left-back to overlook the vastly-experienced Cole for his 23-man squad.
It continues a remarkable rise for the teenager, named in the Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year and among the nominees for the Young Player of the Year award this season.
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 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 Southampton, 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 season, 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 have just secured a record Premier League points haul and finished eighth, while Shaw has made 67 first-team appearances.
The teenager is now World Cup-bound with several of his team-mates - 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, he does not rock up to training in a flash car - 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 set for the very top.
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