SCOUTING REPORT: Luke Shaw - Southampton

It’s well known. The academy at Southampton Football Club must be doing something right. Theo Walcott & Alex Oxaide-Chamberlain precede young Luke Shaw as the next big thing to come out of the Saints youth academy recently. Seventeen year old Shaw is very impressive, so far showing great ball control at a fast pace, poise in tight situations and a strong resolve and dedication to deal with the physicality of the premier league.

Talent coming up from the youth system, and going on to wear white at Wembley, are a bright spot in an otherwise bleak modern era so far at Southampton, after having been previously relegated from the Premier League in 2005. Before that time Southampton enjoy 27 successive seasons in england’s top flight.

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It’s not everyday you say a 17 year old oozes class, but the desire to do well comes off Shaw in waves. He seems like an everyday lad who just plays his football, but it’s easy to see that Shaw is someone who would one day like to see himself as one the best in the world. That’s the kind of attitude that gets rewarded the most and the most often in football.

No matter what happens to Southampton by the end of the season, it’s sure that Luke Shaw will be a Premier League player. Quiet speculation looms, Liverpool, Man Utd, and Arsenal are shuffling together funds. Shaw could be another piece to the puzzle.

Unlike most players which previously may have found themselves in a similar position, Shaw has many options that will help him grow on & off the pitch. Liverpool, Arsenal, and Man Utd are all brimming with english talent.

Arsenal, which is heavily known for it’s youth policy under Arsene Wenger, would add Shaw to maturing Wilshire, Kieran Gibbs, and Alex Oxaide-Chamberlain. It is still too early in Shaw’s professional career to tell if he will be a midfielder or defender, but he could help solidify the core of Arsenal’s side.

At Old Trafford, Shaw will have the opportunity to link up with the likes of established England international Wayne Rooney, and other england teammates in Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones. However, playing time may be harder to come by as Man Utd look to bolster their back line in the summer, and no player gets guarantees under Ferguson.

Shaw’s other option would be to link up with Captain Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, which is also once again boasting top British talent. Jordan Henderson is seeming more impressive with every passing week, as Brendan Rodgers continues grooming his young players. Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey, and Martin Kelly have been impressive under Rodgers. Liverpool has the youngest side in the premier league and the club is currently enjoying a transition period which has allowed many players to grow quickly. Shaw would come in already having the experience of playing regularly in a premier league season.

Some out there are calling Shaw the ‘next’ Gareth Bale, as his physicality, blistering pace and ability to control the ball are well developed at his age. He has the opportunity to play with the next Steven Gerrard and the real one if he plays for Liverpool.

All three clubs will probably enquire about the services of Luke Shaw as one of the first items on their agenda this summer. All three have questions in defense, and all three have more the achieve.

Manchester United at still dominant in the Fergie era, but it’s easy to seem their weakness at the back by conceding uncharacteristic goals the last two seasons. This doesn’t seem to deter them too much from being at the top of the table. This looks unlikely to change until Fergie stops mashing his gum in the dugout of Old Trafford.

Arsenal need to spend this summer to prove to their supporters them want to compete. With no guarantees of Champions League football next season, a lot of what Arsenal’s transfer policy wont be established until May. What is clear is that Arsenal fans are hungry for the silverware that’s just over the horizon. Luke Shaw might be another piece to get them there, but some Arsenal supporters are tired of waiting for young men to blossom.

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Liverpool are in just as a precarious situation as Arsenal, as they have failed to qualify for the Champions League since 2009. An entire rebuilding of the squad, which will result in only Reina, Gerrard and Lucas remaining from the Benitez era, may offer Shaw more opportunities to impress than perhaps with another team. If Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, they will surely look for more experienced players, but Anfield has always seen value in the type of attitude Shaw displays on the pitch. Liverpool tends to be a place where players are remembered for doing the big things right all the time, and the spectacular right on the occasion. Then, there are also the legends who are spectacular on their own.

It is almost a certainty Shaw will go if Southampton are relegated, as is usually the case with stand out players in a relegation side. He’s loyal to the club, but the Saints could be looking to secure their own financial future with Shaw’s sale. Shaw seems like an intelligent young man who is very mindful of the length of his career. He’s starting to carve a name out for himself. The future of English football looks bright, it’s been said before, but with a new generation playing alongside the most skilled players in the world. Britons never looked more poised for greatness. Look out world football for England & Southampton’s Luke Shaw.

Anticipation: My Love for Liverpool FC

I woke up at five in the morning to watch the draw. My hands were shaking as I navigated shoddy internet streams as the 2009 Champions League knock out phase draw was being held a half a world away. In my room it was 5am. My mother was awake, getting ready for her job at the local hospital. I will never forget her face as she watched me bite off my fingernails in front of a tiny computer screen. I watched the draw from the start, knowing that Liverpool FC could be drawn at any time to a number of great opponents. My eyes were wide as the tiny lottery ball was cracked open and the piece of paper was unveiled to the world. 

Liverpool FC

Will Face

Real Madrid

There was an eruption. An eternal burst of positive energy and great joy that possessed my body at that moment in time. I jumped out of my chair, sprinted down the hall into my mother’s room and jumped on her bed. I ran back and forth, gave her a hug and danced in a jubilant celebration that could only be brought on by football. My mother was oblivious. She knew it meant a lot to me, but not why it meant a lot at 5am. I was in tears, but the best kind of tears are always tears of joy. I was going to watch my beloved Liverpool FC in Madrid. 

It's Not a Badge, It's a Family Crest

I had decided months before I was going to take a six week trip to Europe. In fact, I had put off college and been saving all year to go to what I thought would be Italy, an essential travel destination for an American abroad. But as I saved, and the money in my account slowly started to balloon something miraculous happened that no young fan of Liverpool will ever forget.

It was the 2008-2009 season and Liverpool FC were flying. We were bossing the league, fantastic in the Champions League. The only blip along the way had been the Carling Cup & FA Cup. We were the Spanish reds, four players in our starting line up had come home European Champions, Steven Gerrard was in his prime. Fernando Torres had finished the last year with over 30 goals, and this season he looked as though he would get 30 more. Xabi Alonso and Stevie G were enjoying neat combination play and brilliant passing in midfield. Alvaro Arbeloa was refreshing as a left back striding forward to spring the attack, but also crucially aware of his place in defense. Javier Mascherano stunted every attack from his role in defensive midfield. Carragher was putting in countless outstanding performances, and Pepe Reina was inspirational stopping almost everything in front of him including more than a few penalties that year. I enjoyed my time falling hard for Liverpool, a club I had already accepted into my heart and acknowledged being madly in love with.

I would wake up early weekend morning and drive to Anna Liffey’s in my local city of New Haven to find Gary behind the bar in a red kit, Pat the owner sneaking in with a cup of coffee, an eager look in his eye awaiting kick off behind his casual demeanor. There was John, Matt, and the other regulars including myself in the kopite corner as it was in those days. Despite being a lady, I was probably the loudest of the bunch. We joined other Liverpool fans, and fans of other clubs as well as the season panned out. It was during these mornings between Guinness, Irish breakfasts and new friends that I knew that Liverpool was something I could never forget. Not even for an instant. Not in the off season. Not while other more popular sports were being played. College football took a back seat. Baseball was no longer a priority. UCONN was second rate, blasphemy when you’re someone from my state. I was all red. My curiosity about a sport I didn’t know had blossomed into the passion and the fervor felt all around the world for big matches, and I didn’t miss a beat in Connecticut.

When Liverpool drew Real Madrid in the knock out phases of the Champions League, I knew I was going to Spain. We were Liverpool, but also the Spanish reds. Rafa Benitez was our manager. Some of our best players were from sunny Spain. Our new Anfield hero Fernando Torres was our leading scorer and had the catchiest song to ever waft across a football pitch. It was Torres homecoming. A rematch of the 1981 European Cup final. It all fit. 

So I went by myself. A girl alone to a European football match. No one else could think of a reason to go in February. I spent my life savings to go, and enjoy my many weeks in Spain. The moment I knew I was going was that first instant when UEFA revealed the two teams that would feature in the match. It was fate, and I’ve always known in my heart that fate is something you never mess with.

The anticipation of history was what got me out of bed to watch every Liverpool game I could that year. The anticipation of brilliant goals, broken records, great performances, inspiring character on the pitch and in the terraces is what kept me coming back for more. When I paid three times the price for a Champions League ticket online on some shoddy website, I knew that HD television would never be enough for me again. 

a yank getting to hold the Rafa banner was special!!

I had to wait the best part of two months to go to sunny spain. Which was still sunny, even though it was cold in February. I didn’t care. It was still paradise compared to the New England winters. The anticipation of the match, seeing my boys for the first time in person put a lasting smile on my face the entire time I was in Madrid. I frequented the official Liverpool supporters club in Madrid in the build up to the game. I even won trivia! Not bad for some american girl from the states. I will never forget the looks on the faces of those men gathered in the pub that day. The only other girls were bartenders and girlfriends, but great conversation was made anyway. Many people packed in to watch the Tuesday night’s games before Wednesday’s Liverpool fixture. Due to a family friend, I was able to stay at a hotel close to the Bernabeu and was able to see the stadium each day as I made my way to the metro station in the morning to explore Madrid. I couldn’t sleep before match day. I needed to pack because I would be leaving for Barcelona the next day, but how could I think about that? How could I think about anything but Liverpool?

I will never forget the sound of Fields of Anfield road wafting over cobblestone streets in Sol. I will never forget the Plaza Mayor littered with Carlsberg, footballs, scouse accents and people of all ages. I’ll never forget those I talked to, and the stories they shared. I’ll never forget holding the Rafa Benitez banner. That iconic image I saw flying over the Kop every week on tv, and now I was holding it in my hands in Madrid. I’ll never forget the kindness and welcoming spirit of the Liverpool supporters who always welcome those who respect the club as one of their own. Knowing my football was enough for them, and being respectful to the history and legacy of Liverpool Football Club.

The 90 minutes that night was the longest of my life. I had traveled all that way. Spent all that I’d saved. Placed all my hopes and prayed that Liverpool would win in Madrid that day. I’ll never forget the lights, and the way they flashed around the Santiago Bernabeu. Nervousness was perhaps the only reason I didn’t cry when I heard the Champions League anthem, or maybe it was because I was surrounded by guys.

i had a very good time for the 90 with these guys, wish i actually knew who they were! YNWA whoever you are

It was 0-0 into the 82nd minute, and then the little Israeli Yossi Benayoun brought a fit of pure exuberance to 6,000 joyous scousers to the highest point of the of that stadium. For 90 minutes we had out sang the Madrid faithful from our point tucked high away in the nose bleed section of the stadium. We sung all through the first half, and louder in the second, before nervousness began to take over. When Yossi scored, relief washed over us and the songs began again. I’ll never forget the way kopites sing. In that moment, when the goal went in that most of us couldn’t see, I was jumped on by a bunch of guys with the same expression in their eyes as me, and I knew that for the rest of my life I was LFC. I would never walk alone.

If there were any doubts, any logical circumstance that would let LFC ever dissipate from its proper place in my life, then that moment in Madrid erased it. I’d never wanted something more in my whole life, and at that moment neither had anyone else. I had waited for months, suffered a terrible exchange rate from that stupid recession, and braved Spain as a girl alone… but it was all worth it to see Torres get a win back home, to see Xabi Alonso almost score from half way, to see a quality performance from Stevie & co away in one of the hardest football grounds to ever play. 

The anticipation was worth it for that day. That night. When kopites shook Madrid subways, and sung louder than anyone could ever sing about Spanish players come home to play in front of friends and family, and a country they had made celebrate. 

I feel that way about Boston next week. I know it wont quite be the same, but the best part of LFC is the camaraderie. I can’t wait to meet reds from all over the world and the USA and talk about the Liverpool way. I can’t wait to laugh and joke about LFC, and not have to explain national teams don’t play in the Premier League. I’m anticipating a moment that will be all about LFC, an indulgence in culture that will always be apart of me.

I can’t wait for Liverpool vs AS Roma at Fenway next week and meeting all the traveling reds from all over the country and the world. It should be a great time at the Phoenix Landing and the after party, and it wouldn’t be Liverpool if we weren’t singing songs in the streets. Looking forward to meeting you all, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

- Imani