England Under-19s coach Noel Blake says Southampton are having a big say in the future of the country’s national teams.
Blake named Saints youngster Calum Chambers, Matt Targett, Sam Gallagher and Harrison Reed in his squad for tonight’s game against Turkey.
Teammates James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw, Jordan Turnbull and Jack Stephens have also previously played for Blake, with the former two of those having now progressed into the Under-21s and senior squad respectively.
And Blake told saintsfc.co.uk that the players themselves have responded well to the chances given to them at domestic level.
“I’ve genuinely felt for a long, long time that there is a lot of good, young English talent but you have got to get opportunities,” said the former Exeter boss, who has been working with The Football Association since 2008.
“I’m sure that if the likes of Calum, Wardy (Ward-Prowse) and Luke weren’t delivering then they wouldn’t be in Southampton’s first team, so it’s up to the players as well.
“It’s one thing having an opportunity, but you’ve got to apply yourself and show the senior management team that you’re doing this or doing that so they give you an opportunity – and, when they give you an opportunity, you have to go and grasp it.
“The Southampton boys have done things very, very well,” he continued. “We’re delighted that they’re in the England system because their attitude and the way they apply themselves on and off the field is great. We’ve never had any issues with any of the Southampton players.”
Blake has cast his eye over the four Saints players in his squad over the past few days, and says he has been impressed with all four of them – especially Calum Chambers, who has broken into Saints’ First Team this season.
“This is nothing new for Calum,” he began. “He played for the Under-17s and obviously was with me last year, so he’s flying with us.
“He’s the captain of the group so I have a good relationship with him. We discuss things about the team around the hotel, and so on and so forth.
“In the past, and certainly with Calum this year, when a player has had a taste of the first team, it adds an intensity to their game and to their training.
“Their manner is totally different, to a degree – not that there was anything wrong previously, but they have a more purposeful stride about them.
“They’re more businesslike, if you want. Their leadership skills become better because their standards are so much higher than those of the lads who are not playing in the first team.
“Taggs (Matt Targett) has come in and he did very well in Hungary, so I’m very pleased with him and how he performed on his first time out,” added Blake. “He’s settled in really well.
“For Sam and Harry on their first times with us, it helps to have their club colleagues around. They’ve settled in really well.
“An important thing for us is the environment for whoever comes in. We want to make people feel welcome – that’s the way we work right up from the Under-16s.”
Blake also reserved praise for Ward-Prowse, who looks set to be in the Under-21s side to face Wales this evening.
“He’s just one of those boys who love football,” enthused the former defender.
“The first time I worked with James was in Germany with the rest of the 1994 group. I just watched him prepare, and his professionalism and dedication to himself was magnificent to watch at that stage.
“He went into the corridor and prepped himself because he knew what was required for his game, and he went and delivered and had a very good game in Germany.
“To be fair, there are a lot of other boys who are doing that at other clubs now. There is a massive change in young players in this country, and I for one am delighted to see that.”