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Teenage starlet Shaw a Saints torchbearer
Luke Shaw is leading the way for Saints as the club boast the youngest team in the Premier League.
At just 17-years-old, Shaw is the youngest player in the top flight, slotting into the youngest side.
The last round of fixtures saw Saints field a team with an average age of less than 24 – younger than any other side in the division and about seven years younger than Fulham.
Shaw is the torch bearer for this, as one of only two 17-year-olds who started in the latest round of Premier League games.
But while Liverpool’s England international Raheem Sterling turns 18 next month, Shaw doesn’t reach that particular milestone until next July.
Possibly surprisingly, Shaw was one of only SIX teenagers who started their club’s most recent Premier League game out of 210 players.
Of those, Liverpool fielded half of them – 19-year-olds Suso and Andre Wisdom also starting alongside Sterling against Wigan at Anfield.
Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic and Swansea full back Ben Davies are also 19.
Two more 19-year-olds came on as a sub – ex-Saint Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal and Newcastle’s Gail Bigrimana.
It all goes to underline Saints’ commitment to youth, redoubled this week with a new five-year contract for 18-year-old James Ward-Prowse.
“There is a vision at the football club to bring our youngsters through the system,” reflected Saints boss Nigel Adkins.
“James Ward-Prowse has been playing and been there on merit and done ever so well and Luke Shaw we have high hopes for.
“He came off against Swansea with cramp and came off again (at QPR) with cramp.
“He’s a young 17-year-old and it’s probably highlighted more because he’s a defender that he’s had to come off, but we did it with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he was here and he was coming off with cramp towards the end of game.
“It is a bit easier when it’s a forward player and a bit more challenging when it’s a defender, but I’ve got to have the confidence to go and do that.
“We believe he’s played ever so well again and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him.
“How is he going to gain experience? He’s only going to gain it by playing.
“I’ve got to have the confidence and the belief and the resolve to say ‘if you’re ready, I’m going to play you.’”
Saints are committed to try to get young players through their system and into the first team.
That remains a tough challenge when you consider that, despite such a young side, Saints only had two academy developed products in their starting line-up for the win over QPR – Shaw and captain Adam Lallana.
Adkins is the man who has to make the big calls on whether to include the youngsters or not, and is taking his responsibility very seriously.
“We are very mindful of not putting any of the youngsters in a situation that could have an adverse effect on them,” he said.
“We take a lot of care and attention about the youngsters that we have at the football club because we have a growing responsibility for their development.
“We want to give them that opportunity to develop and nurture them.
“I’ve done it in the past and there are times when we will put them in and take them out and give them that opportunity to gain them experience and keep progressing.
“That’s going to continue.”