Saints teenager shoots for stars
Calum Chambers hopes Southampton can capitalise on a nucleus of home-grown talents to mount a long-term challenge for Champions League football.
The 18-year-old defender is expected to maintain his right-back berth for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Tottenham at St Mary's Stadium.
Nathaniel Clyne is still struggling with a hamstring problem, and if he fails a late fitness test then Chambers will continue at full-back.
Chambers graduated from Saints' academy at the same time as first-team peers Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Harrison Reed.
All four teenagers tasted Premier League action in Saints' 1-1 home draw with Manchester City on December 7.
Chambers believes manager Mauricio Pochettino's faith in youth can help Southampton make tangible top-flight progress, without having to rely simply on big-money imports.
And he sees no reason why Saints cannot eventually use those foundations to break into the all-but ring-fenced Premier League top four.
"The academy has got such good coaching and grounding, anyone coming through it is brought up the Southampton way," Chambers said.
"Against Manchester City we had three people I've been with at the club since I was seven years old, on the pitch with me at the same time.
"That's fantastic, it's what we'd dreamed off since I was young.
"To play in the Premier League is a dream come true, so to fulfil it is fantastic.
"It betters everything you think of to be honest you.
"Playing in front of everyone and playing for the club I've wanted to since I was a young boy, it's a dream come true, there's no other way to describe that feeling.
"The manager believes in the young players and thankfully for us they are giving us opportunities.
"The gaffer's given me my opportunity to play in the Premier League and I can't thank him enough for that."
Southampton sit ninth in the Premier League table with six wins from 16 games in their first campaign under former Argentina defender Pochettino.
Hard-fought draws against Manchester City and Newcastle are the latest results to boost Southampton's confidence.
Interim manager Tim Sherwood will make it his personal aim to blood more of Tottenham's youngsters in the first team if he is appointed on a permanent basis.
The 44-year-old has been placed in temporary charge of Spurs following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas on Monday, less than 24 hours after Liverpool romped to a 5-0 victory in north London.
His first game in charge saw Spurs lose 2-1 at home to rivals West Ham in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday evening.
A positive result at St Mary's would certainly strengthen Sherwood's application to succeed Villas-Boas and, if the former Blackburn skipper is successful, he intends to tap into his knowledge of the youth players at the club following his developmental role with Spurs.
With seven big-money summer signings meaning even fewer opportunities for young players to break through, Sherwood would be keen to alter that trend.
"If something happened on a longer term with me it would be addressed," he said.
"The last thing we would want to do is stunt their growth because there are some top young players down there ready to step up.
"You want to keep them [young players] at your club, you have worked hard since they were eight years of age and you were bringing them through, but they can't all stay.
"Sometimes the manager and the board have to make a decision to bring in what they perceive is extra quality and if you make that decision you have to live and die by it."
Southampton have enjoyed a good start to the season and sit just three points behind Spurs in the table, with their manager Mauricio Pochettino finding himself linked to the vacancy at White Hart Lane.
But the Argentinian has seemingly ruled himself out of the running before entertaining Sherwood's side on Sunday, with the former England international aware of the threat Pochettino's side will pose.
"Nigel Adkins was doing a good job before him and it was a surprise to everyone that he left the club, but that shows you the nature of football," he added.
"Pochettino has gone in and it seems like he has taken them on, but it is still early days for him. It will be a very tough game for us down there.
"We know what to expect from Southampton, he has got his team playing a very high, pressed game with a quick tempo and lots of young, English players down there."
Sherwood will be buoyed by the return from suspension of skipper Michael Dawson, but is still without fellow defenders Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul as well as Paulinho, while winger Andros Townsend is also missing through injury.