PFA Men's Young Player of the Year nominee: Luke Shaw (Southampton FC).
What an incredible two years it has been for the latest young star to roll off the formidable Southampton production line and light up the Barclays Premier League at such a tender age.
Following in the illustrious footsteps of the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw has risen through the Saints’ ranks with style and purpose.
Having made his first team debut at 16, Shaw has already established himself as the club’s first choice left back – and he’s now making a name for himself on the international stage too.
Now 18, Shaw was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the friendly against Denmark last month (March) and made his bow as a second half replacement for Ashley Cole.
With all the assurance and confidence of a seasoned international campaigner, the London-born left back produced a wonderful 45-minute cameo to give Hodgson World Cup food for thought.
Not that his unflappable and almost infallible display came as any great surprise to two of his England colleagues who know him best and have watched his development at close quarters.
Adam Lallana, who has played himself into contention for this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil, reckons Southampton teammate Shaw would not look out of place on the biggest stage of all.
Comparisons with former Saint, Bale are already being drawn, and Lallana says of the new kid on the block: “He is an outstanding talent. One of the best – probably THE best – player I’ve seen at 18.”
Lallana believes Shaw’s elevation from the Under 21s to the national squad was a just reward for the impressive contribution he has made to the Southampton cause over the last two seasons.
He added: “To have played 50-odd games in the Premiership by the age of 18, and to have handled some of the best wingers in the world, shows he is ready to make the next step.
“I think he is ready to be thrown into a World Cup atmosphere, definitely, because nothing has fazed him in his development so far”.