Football - Pochettino hails Ward-Prowse

Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse has been hailed as the perfect model for the club's future by manager Mauricio Pochettino.

PA Sport Report

The 18-year-old came on as a substitute against Manchester United last weekend and inspired his team to a deserved draw at Old Trafford.

The Saints could surge into the top four in the Barclays Premier League if they beat Fulham on Saturday and other results go their way, with Pochettino praising the contribution of Ward-Prowse.

Pochettino told reporters: "James Ward-Prowse is basically an example of the player we are promoting, the player we want to have in this club. In every training session he gives 100 per cent. He always has an immediate impact in what he does and he is still a player who is growing. He is a figurehead of the sort of player we are looking for at Southampton.

"I am a person who has always given a lot of value to the youth teams in clubs. I was a player who came out of the youth ranks in one of the best youth academies in Argentina.

"Also, when I was managing Espanyol, I was a manager who always liked to push through that academy culture. I really value the younger players in any club.

"One of the main reasons I actually signed for Southampton was the fact that they wanted to push through that academy system. They wanted to reinforce and that went very well with how I view the future of a football club."

Ward-Prowse, who scored his first England Under-21 goal earlier this month, converting a free-kick in a 5-0 win against Lithuania, came on against United for Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, who picked up a slight knock and is a doubt for the Fulham game.

But if Ward-Prowse is the epitome of Southampton's vibrant football this season then it is the defence, which boasts the best record in the Premier League with just three goals conceded in comparison with 24 at the same time last season, which is the main factor in their success.

Much of that can be put down to the meticulous planning under Pochettino and the double training sessions he has instigated.

"I am very happy that we are keeping this amazing defensive record," Pochettino said.

"It's all down to the great effort of the players. They are the ones who have accepted very well to have these double sessions, to accept this physical challenge and the new way of how we want them to train and to play."

A win on Saturday, against a Fulham side buoyant from their 4-1 victory against Crystal Palace on Monday, would give Southampton their best ever start to a season.

"I don't really think about that," said Pochettino. "I just think about winning and having my players playing as well and as positively as I want them to play.

"We know it is a very long competition and a very long season and we know that statistics in the end are just statistics but don't really mean anything, so the most important thing is how high up we are in the table at the end of the season. That's what really counts."

He will not be taking Fulham lightly.

Pochettino added: "Fulham are a team that know how to play football. They have talented players and have been using a 4-2-2 system and defending very deep."

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