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Meteoric rise of a superstar
As Luke Shaw sat as an unused sub on the Saints bench watching Ryan Dickson at left back in a 2-1 Carling Cup win over Preston in September 2011, he could surely never have foreseen that just two and a half years later he would be in with a chance of going to the World Cup with England.
Saints also would surely not have dared to dream they would have four players in the senior international squad with Shaw joined by Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez with James Ward-Prowse in the under-21s and Sam Gallagher, Matt Targett, Harrison Reed and Calum Chambers in the under-19s. It is a remarkable rise for both Shaw and the club that have produced him and this latest string of talent.
Saints have long since had an illustrious history of developing brilliant young players, and the current England squads are a testament to what the club is all about.
Even at the tender age of 18, Shaw’s association with Saints is already a decade old.
The story is well known – he was a Chelsea fan but didn’t get selected for their academy, or several others, but was picked up by Saints at the age of eight.
He then set upon his stellar rise to prominence, which could lead all the way to this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
There was much talk behind the scenes about Shaw long before he made his Saints debut aged 16, playing 13 minutes at the end of an FA Cup tie with Millwall.
In fact, he was even more talked about than the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at a similar age while Arsenal were often linked with a £4m move for Shaw before he even made the first team squad.
The transfer links have refused to go away – though the list of those linked and the prices they are reportedly prepared to pay has significantly increased.
In May 2012, Shaw signed his first professional contract. Just a year later he had penned a new five year deal, a show of determination from Saints to protect their asset.
It was only a year and a half ago that Shaw started his first Saints Premier League game, now he has 49 appearances in the top flight under his belt and is an automatic selection if fit.
It has all culminated in a first England call up.
His mum, Joanna, took to Twitter to sum up her emotions.
“Words cannot express how proud I am of Luke to be named in the senior England squad,” she wrote. “I actually burst into tears.”
For his parents it must seem like such a long journey to get to this point.
All those trips in the car to the south coast to drop him off and pick him up, the inevitable highs and lows as he grew.
Yet, from an outsider’s perspective, Shaw’s meteoric rise has happened in double quick time.
Now he is probably just days away from an England debut and, potentially, only a few crucial months of good form off of going to the World Cup.
It would have taken some foresight to have envisioned that when Shaw failed to make his debut in that Preston game.