James Ward-Prowse: Southampton’s midfield dynamo poised to make England impact


Football is a sport of maybes. It resides on a knife-edge, with any split second decision or action holding the power to change everything; a club’s trophy haul or even a player’s career. Take the case of James Ward-Prowse for example.

The beautiful game has provided him with a high-octane mixture of emotions and experiences, stretching from the town of Portsmouth, his current side’s arch rivals, to netting six goals in his previous nine Premier League games. But for all his successes at club level, the splendor of international football has tended to slip agonisingly through his grasp.

The Southampton midfield dynamo would even have been forgiven for believing that a lengthy delay for a second England call-up was all that awaited him, despite his red-hot form.

Ward-Prowse’s name was conspicuously absent when Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate named his 23-man squad to take on the Czech Republic and Montenegro in the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers. The 24-year-old even revealed he had received no explanation from Southgate.

But a few days later, Ward-Prowse was called upon after injuries to Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek prompted the need for reinforcements.

It was unthinkable in the first place that Southgate had not selected the youngster from the off, especially considering the newfound bite the 24-year-old can provide in the heart of midfield. Ward-Prowse has elegantly transformed from a creative hub at the heart of Southampton’s side, one which often frustrated and flickered in and out of games all too often, to a dominating force oozing with authority.

The Saints playmaker visibly enjoyed a key role in Wilfried Zaha’s dismissal in January in a 1-1 draw between Southampton and Crystal Palace. Ward-Prowse’s late challenge went unpunished, causing Zaha to sarcastically clap in the direction of the referee and receive his marching orders.

The midfield man appears to be continually adding to his impressive arsenal of talents. In the top flight this season, Ward-Prowse has recorded 12 shots on target, converting six of them. His threat from a dead ball situation has also become spectacularly evident in recent weeks.

A free-kick from 25 yards dipped superbly beyond Manchester United’s David de Gea last month, before an eerily similar strike ripped into the back of the Tottenham net just weeks after.

His divine intervention against the latter proved to be the crucial winner on that day, further cementing his credentials as a game changer for Southampton just when they need it the most.

Ward-Prowse is now in his eighth season in the first-team fold at St Mary’s, but is still trying to escape from the ‘Academy boy’ tag fondly assigned to him around the time of his breakthrough.

He recently admitted:

“I want to get away from that perception – that’s not what I want to be anymore. I want to be more aggressive, to try to stamp my authority a bit more on what’s going on.”

clearly eager to shrug off his ‘streetwise’ perception and prove he possesses so much more than just the ability to play a simple pass.

There are now countless facets to Ward-Prowse’s game. The midfielder has already doubled his goal tally from last season, and his presence in the penalty area is visibly more forceful.

There can be no doubting he will rightly be at the head of the queue for a free-kick within shooting range, with his David Beckham-esque technique ready to be deployed in rip-roaring fashion.

So what are the reasons for Southgate’s initial hesitation for handing Ward-Prowse his second call-up? The Saints man arguably offers more both offensively and defensively than both Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier, and his brash attitude in the tackle will surely be enough to impress even the most apathetic England supporter.

One thing is for certain; the rewards will certainly justify the risk should Ward-Prowse be handed a well-deserved appearance for the Three Lions during this international break. Judging by his form in the top flight this campaign, it would be cruel not to.


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