An article on the Guardian appeared late last night on a Southampton midfielder dubbed the second coming of Theo Walcott, linking the 17-year-old with a move to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool. It is rumoured that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has risen through the youth ranks at Southampton to become a first team regular this season, is the first piece of Dalglish’s puzzle in his second stint as manager at Anfield. Dalglish has made it no secret about finding attacking talent who can improve Fernando Torres’ game, and with a reported £10million fee possibly being forked out for Oxlade-Chamberlain – we’ll be hearing a lot more of Southampton’s latest young star to emerge from an academy which, in the past uncovered Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, the aforementioned Theo Walcott, and the man everyone and their mother’s are raving about this year – Gareth Bale.
So who the hell is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? In this ad libbed One 2 Watch, I’ll look at the attacker’s background and career to date and see just why Liverpool are linked with him for such a massive transfer fee.
Alex joined the Southampton youth system in 2000 when he was just 7-years-of-age, after a successful trial period at the club. Despite promising early signs, it took a few years before Alex was blooded in an eleven-a-side game. His father Mark Chamberlain, the former Portsmouth and England winger, was a coach at the club at the time and they agreed to let Alex develop physically before fielding him in a full twenty-two man (or child) football game. By the time he made the step up, his ability on the ball was more than noticeable – it appeared an eleven-a-side game meant it was just a couple of more players to embarrass while on his mazy runs.
Alex’s youth career stalled once more, when at the age of sixteen the club held him back a year in order to catch up in size with his team mates in the youth academy. His physical limitations gave doubt to any further progression, but Southampton were less than troubled by this stumbling block and offered him a new contract which he duly accepted.
“Im not afraid of hard work, when they said I was too small to make the grade, I went off and worked harder in the training ground and in the gym to put on the body weight.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain was an impressive figure for the under-18 and reserve sides at Southampton last season, and this year made his first competitive start in an early Carling Cup tie against Bournemouth in which he scored. In August, shortly after his 17th birthday, Oxlade-Chamberlain signed his first professional contract with the League One side and that is expected to last for around three years. The speedy attacker, who has switched to a more wide position for the first team having played most of his youth career through the centre, has played twenty-two times for Southampton to date, scoring six goals.
“He told me to come on and run at people, be a big impact, that’s what I tried to do, and hopefully the goal proved that I did.
“More importantly, it was a big goal for the team as it was the winning one to get us the three points, but on a personal note I’m really pleased to get my first league goal
As the young man has come through the Southampton youth system and possesses a fearsome amount of pace to take on unsuspecting back lines, comparisons to Theo Walcott aren’t surprising. However Alex remains adamant that he is only playing on the wing because he has too small a stature to play in a more central position just yet.
Southampton are in second position in League One at the minute, and admiration must be given to the 17-year-old for breaking into a very strong midfield that the Saints have at their disposal. Southampton, as history proves, are a terrific club for nurturing and developing young talent and ,although Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott were plucked from their grasps at a relatively young age, these players still hold magnificent potential and are some way from reaching their best – despite playing in the Premier League for a number of years now.
Liverpool have been linked with a lot of players over the last few months, and to be linked with Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t quite a surprise either. It is believed Theo Walcott was very close to a move to Anfield years ago while under Rafa Benitez, so close that he even sat in Benitez’s office, but the club refused to fork out what Arsenal were willing to pay at the time. As Liverpool go in search for some much needed width, regularly being linked to players like HSV Hamburg and Dutch wideman Eljero Elia, I’m sure Dalglish, Damien Comolli and the owners would much prefer to see a young English player come to the club rather than forking out for a foreign player.
Whether this move materialises this month, it remains to be seen. But with this sudden surge in attention for the young Southampton attacker one thing is for certain – we haven’t heard the last of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.