Reward for patience

It is not long since Adam Lallana was playing his football in the third tier of English football but a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil suddenly looks a realistic prospect, writes Andrew McDermott.

When England won the World Cup in 1966, they famously had a trio of West Ham players in their team.

Now, with the countdown to Brazil 2014 well under way, it is Southampton who are capturing the headlines for the English contingent in their team after proving the surprise package in the Premier League this season.

They now sit third in the table and their academy is being hailed as a shining example of how to develop home-grown players.

In the last decade it has produced the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana but while the first three have since secured lucrative moves to Champions League clubs, Lallana is the one who got left behind.This season, though, his patience is finally being rewarded.

It is not long since Saints captain Lallana was playing his football in the third tier of English football but a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil suddenly looks a realistic prospect.

He was attending Bournemouth’s Centre of Excellence when he was spotted by Southampton at the age of 12 and he has been at the club ever since. The nominal sum they were ordered to pay for him by an independent tribunal now looks an amazing piece of business.

He helped Saints reach the FA Youth Cup final in 2005 but at the age of 18 he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. That could have been the end of his career but fortunately he underwent successful surgery which allowed him to continue.

Lallana returned to Bournemouth for a brief loan spell in 2007 before becoming a first-team regular and he stayed at cash-strapped Southampton as they went into administration and dropped down into League One.

On the plus side, it meant more opportunity to play regular first-team football and soon both Lallana and Southampton were on the way up.

He played a key role in back-to-back promotions which saw Southampton return to the EPL and the attacking midfielder was named in the divisional team of the year during both campaigns.

Then Saints boss Nigel Adkins had no doubt that Lallana would cope with the demands of facing some of the world’s best players, stating: “Premier League supporters are going to enjoy watching Adam Lallana.”

How right he was, and nobody has enjoyed watching Lallana more than England boss Roy Hodgson.

With the player having already represented his country at Under-18, 19 and 21 levels, he was called up to the senior national team for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine last year when he was an unused substitute.

Hodgson has added Lallana to his squad for the friendlies against Germany and Chile.

Hodgson was in the stands to see how his England trio — which also includes Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez — got on and Lallana responded with a Man of the Match display in the 4-1 defeat of Hull in which he scored an exquisite solo effort.

Asked if the last few days have made it the best week of his career, Lallana said: “I think so, but I just want to keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard. It has been an emotional week, a very proud week for my family. It has been a proud week for the club as well, with J-Rod and Rickie also being named in the squad. It just proves how far the club has come forward and it is credit to not just the players, but the management staff, chairman, the scouting and recruitment department, and the fans, who have stuck with us when we were in League One not so long ago.”

The World Cup must have seemed a million miles away during his League One days but Lallana is now a realistic contender for a trip to Rio.

Lallanna is not married but has a long-term girlfriend Emily Jubb, who gave birth to their first son in September. The player is believed to own a white Audi.

FACTFILE Name: Adam Lallana DOB: 10/05/1988 Club: Southampton Position: Midfielder

Moment to remember: Being named in the England squad for the first time against Ukraine last year.

Moment to forget: Southampton’s administration and subsequent 10-point deduction was a tough time for everyone at the club.

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