TALENT spotter Terry Wateridge – the man responsible for discovering Adam Lallana – has revealed how the England star used to plead to play football in Bournemouth’s King’s Park when he was just six.
Wateridge unearthed Lallana during his time as Cherries’ youth development officer and fought hard for the club to receive compensation after he had been poached by Saints.
Lallana, named yesterday in Roy Hodgson’s squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, moved with his family to Iford when he was five and became a regular at Wateridge’s Monday night club.
The youngster, who was also a Littledown Junior, progressed to the Cherries Centre of Excellence before he was snapped up by Saints as a 12-year-old in September 2000.
Wateridge said: “He turned up one day with his father but I said he was too young because the group was for eight and nine-year-olds so he would spend the evening kicking a ball and playing on his own.
“He would pester the life out of me to let him play so I eventually allowed him to join in. “He was tremendous and stood out above everybody else. “You could see instantly he was a special talent who had great ability. He was only little but he had quick feet for his age and was a natural. “He also had unbelievable enthusiasm.”
Lallana, who had to pay a couple of pounds for his Monday night sessions, was soon elevated to the Cherries youth ranks by Wateridge and invited to sign schoolboy forms.
“He stood out so we moved him across when he was eight or nine,” said Wateridge, who now coaches at Cherries’ advanced development centres. “He was always so bright-eyed and just kept developing. He didn’t need much coaching because of his natural ability. “His age group didn’t play too many games in those days but he trained regularly at Chapel Gate with the rest of the boys.”
Wateridge, a season ticket holder at St Mary’s, added: “He blossomed in the season just finished. “He got better and stronger with every game and became more of a complete player. I was extremely proud to see him named in the England squad.
“Whatever level he is asked to apply himself to, he can rise to it and that is always the sign of a good player. He is able to keep raising his game, irrespective of what is put to him.”
Lallana has been the subject of interest from several Premier League clubs, with Liverpool leading the race to sign him. Should he be sold, Cherries would receive 25 per cent of the fee, the sell-on forming part of the compensation package decided by an FA tribunal.
Wateridge said: “We didn’t want to lose him and fought hard to keep him. “He may have only been 12 at the time but you know you have a good player and you don’t want to lose them. “My job was to keep him but I couldn’t and that is why I wanted compensation for him.”