Norwich City is striving to follow Southampton’s lead in the race for Premier League progress
Chris Hughton would not be the only Premier League manager to cast an envious glance at Southampton’s emerging talent.
The Canaries must halt the likes of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana at St Mary’s on Saturday who are the headline acts in a crop of young Englishmen making their mark for club and country. Southampton’s fertile youth set-up also bred Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale and Hughton admits that is a superb track record others the rest must aspire to.
“I think they are a club who work very hard at youth development, but so do many other clubs,” said Hughton. “You go through a period when you perhaps may be fortunate to bring a crop through and you just look at what they have produced in recent years. You have to say they have managed to do that for a while now. Sometimes you do get a crop at the same time and they have some very good players in the current squad - particularly in the lad Shaw, who I think is an absolutely outstanding prospect. He is very much going to be a star over these next few years.”
Norwich may have failed to keep pace with a club who followed them out of League One this season but Hughton focuses on the bigger picture.
“We don’t tend to lose that sense of perspective here,” he said. “We are in our third season back in the Premier League as a club and this is my second season at the club. We’ve had very good finishes over the last couple of seasons and we are conscious of how tough the division is and the levels of stability of others who have been in the Premier League much longer.
“It can get only tougher because the clubs coming up from the Championship are better prepared and have better finances than ever before. I think there has to be an understanding of that context but our aim and objective is always to continue to make progress.”
City’s club-record transfer outlay last summer was a testament to their ambition, with Southampton’s Croatian international import Dejan Lovren another on Norwich’s radar before he sealed an £8.5m south coast switch.
“He was a player that we have looked at in the past. We were aware of him for a period of time and he went for big money but he has done very well,” said Hughton. “They have invested and invested well. They have a good balance between that and homegrown talent that has come through. They brought in (Jay) Rodriguez for fairly substantial money and he has had a wonderful season and you add to that (Rickie) Lambert and Lallana and offensively they are the three who have stood out.
“I prefer to look at the positives for us going into this game. We have done fairly well against them recently and we have a decent record. You can’t underestimate the quality they have, but we have to go with a positivity and allow ourselves to go there and look to get something.
“Yes, it will be tough but that is the same every week.”