SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino on Friday heralded his trio of England call-ups, and predicted there would be more to come from the club rapidly making a name for itself as an incubator for future stars.
The club which nurtured the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale, plus England striker Theo Walcott, on Thursday had Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana called up to Roy Hodgson’s squad for matches against Chile and Germany.
With Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Nathaniel Clyne all causing ripples, if not yet waves, in the Premier League, Pochettino’s prediction would appear not to be too off-beam.
“I think if they continue working as they have been, they will definitely get there,” he said of the youngsters. “They do need some time to grow and to mature as players, they are very young still, but with patience and hard work they can get there.”
Pochettino said Rodriguez’s international call would help the big striker’s confidence, and that is was a timely reward for his hard work and flexibility.
”Jay fully deserves the call-up, he has been on a great run,“ said the manager. ”I am really happy for him and we are really proud of all three of them, and lucky to have them.
”I think the whole squad has improved and grown a lot... but I am really proud of the three players who were called up. I am extremely happy for the entire Southampton family.
“It is very important for Jay and for his confidence -- it shows he is progressing as a player. It is fundamental that he is playing as a wide forward... it makes him versatile and that makes him more valuable.”
The Argentine on Friday was named Manager of the Month, but shied away from taking credit for the surge in players from the unfashionable south coast club onto the international stage.
”I think the players are the main actors there, they deserve the credit not me,“ he told reporters. ”It is all down to the great structure we have here in Southampton.
“I am very happy with our project here... the ideas that are being developed. We are working very hard and I feel lucky to be here. I believe in the English football and its future with young English players. I admired English football a year ago, and now I have been working here, I admire it even more.”
To some extent Southampton have flown under the radar for the first part of the season.
But their dynamic style of play coupled with just one defeat in their first 10 league games, and a miserly defense which has conceded only four goals in the league -- the fewest in the top flight -- has pundits suddenly paying attention.
”We cannot really help that the players are being talked about... that is inevitable,“ Pochettino said. ”We have to be intelligent and manage the plaudits that these players are quite rightly getting.
”We need to be smart and we need to keep our feet on the ground and our expectations in check,“ he added. ”We have to be able to take the compliments, and not see it in a negative way but use them as a way to boost our confidence.
“I don’t know how far this team can go but the sky is the limit and that is what I want the people around me to think. We just want to keep working hard, and keep winning.”
Next up for sixth-placed Southampton is the visit of Hull, who lie 10th, on Saturday.
Southampton have 19 points from their opening 10 fixtures, six fewer than league leaders Arsenal, but just one fewer than Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham who lie second, third and fourth.
Manchester City are fifth on 19 points, ahead of Southampton on goal difference.
editing by Justin Palmer