By John Stammers
Gareth Bale is on the verge of joining Real Madrid, Theo Walcott has over 30 England caps, while his Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the country's most exciting young talents.
A fellow graduate of Southampton’s prolific academy, current Saints captain Adam Lallana could be forgiven for thinking how different life could have been had he followed the path taken by his peers. His, however, is a refreshing tale of loyalty, commitment and determination.
Lallana was in the youth team when Saints suffered relegation to the Championship in 2005, before emerging as a star when many - such as Bale - were sold as a consequence of the club’s dire financial plight. The team were relegated to League One, fell into administration and were plunged into crisis.
While others fled, out of choice or necessity, Lallana stayed. Saints have since returned to the Premier League having been saved by Markus Liebherr in 2009, and the south coast club look to have a bright future under chairman Nicola Cortese and manager Mauricio Pochettino. But when Bale, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain perform on those big European nights, does he have any regrets?
|LALLANA'S SOUTHAMPTON CAREER
"Now we want to establish ourselves as a top-flight team. It proves that you don't always have to leave - you can stay and work hard and you get your rewards eventually."
And that is exactly why supporters love Lallana, who led the side in their opening day win over West Brom. He is one of them: both a fan and a player, a modern-day Matthew Le Tissier. It is a comparison Lallana is only too happy to accept.
"It's obviously a massive complement to be mentioned in the same sentence as Le Tiss, but he was a class above," the 25-year-old said. "When I watched him in his testimonial I still had vivid memories of him knocking the ball over someone's head and then nearly chipping it in the top corner."
Pochettino will hope record signing Dani Osvaldo, a £15 million purchase from Roma, is capable of reproducing the sort of jaw-dropping moments Le Tissier provided on a regular basis. But while the club are happy to now be able to delve into the foreign market, they are rightly proud of an academy that continues to thrive.
Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Callum Chambers all started against the Baggies on opening day. The usual suspects have already been sniffing around but with the club now on a far more even financial footing and establishing themselves in the top flight, Lallana believes the club's selling days could be over.
"No [they won't leave like Bale, Walcott and Chamberlain] because they've committed their futures to the club, which is important on behalf on both camps," he added.
|“You can't just buy success in this league. When Manchester City spent big they didn't immediately win the title. It takes time to bed in with new players, but we definitely want to improve on our position last year“|
But it's not just the youngsters making headlines at St Mary's. Saints had the joint-highest number of Englishman (six) in their opening day Premier League XI, including man of the moment Rickie Lambert.
It's been a fairytale couple of weeks for the beetroot-factory-worker-turned-England-international, who headed the winner against Scotland at Wembley with his first touch. Lallana was delighted for his friend, and says the 31-year-old's story gives the rest of the squad confidence.
|HOW LALLANA HELPED SOUTHAMPTON GET BACK TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE
“I heard Sam Allardyce say in an interview that it's either him or Carroll - if that's the case I know who I'd be taking. I've played with Rickie for four years and he is so, so good. He offers so many different aspects. I'm so grateful he had his chance, he took it, and now everyone has seen what he's capable of."
Lambert now faces extra competition following the arrival of Osvaldo, but Lallana thinks the new man will support his push for Brazil 2014, not hinder it, while he isn't concerned about the forward's well-reported off-field issues.
|19/2||Adam Lallana is 19/2 with BetVictor to open the scoring against Sunderland
"I wouldn't say [Osvaldo's] got a bad streak in him. Sometimes for whatever reason it doesn't work out at a club - I know players that's happened to. I'm sure, knowing the club, he'll settle here fine. He's worked under Mauricio before at Espanyol and for him to have desperately wanted to bring him in here, he must have some good qualities and be a good guy - and know how to handle him."
Pochettino has also strengthened a leaky defence with centre-back Dejan Lovren and midfield enforcer Victor Wanyama - both leaving Champions League clubs. European qualification is not beyond the realms of possibility but Lallana is keeping his feet on the ground for now.
"Any improvement on last year will be positive," he insisted. "You can't just buy success in this league. When Manchester City spent big they didn't immediately win the title. It takes time to bed in with new players, but we definitely want to improve on our position last year and if we can look forward to the top 10 that would be a realistic target."
As for personal aims Lallana is just looking forward to getting his head down and helping Southampton progress - and if England manager Hodgson comes calling again, he'll be ready.
He said: "I just want to work hard and play well at every opportunity. I love playing under the manager - he's improved my game. I want to have a good injury-free season and if anything comes from that it must have meant I had a good year. As what's proven with Rickie, if you do that then you're going to get rewarded."
One thing is for sure; he won't be leaving Southampton.
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