Southampton look to be taking a new approach with their academy after announcing the signing of experienced defender Olly Lancashire exclusively for B team level.
Lancashire came through the Saints youth system and went on to make 17 appearances for the first-team between 2008 and 2010. After leaving, he built a respectable career in the Football League and has played 343 games across spells at seven other clubs.
His signing exclusively for B team football was confirmed by the club on Tuesday and, according to Hampshire Live’s Tom Leach, the aim is for him to act as a coach on the pitch and further aid the development of Saints youngsters by providing his own experience.
Saints look to be actively trying to return to their former levels of youth production after a youth recruitment revamp – confirmed by Matt Crocker in May’s Fans’ Forum – and signings such as Dynel Simeu from Chelsea.
Experienced and recognised heads leading the way for Southampton
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Olly Lancashire is not the only academy graduate to re-join Saints this summer with a focus on helping a new crop of youngsters develop.
A big part of the decision to make Theo Walcott’s move back to St Mary’s a permanent one was his role off the pitch. Having played at the highest levels of the game after coming through the Staplewood academy setup, his knowledge will be invaluable for the likes of Nathan Tella.
With academy presence in the B team and first-team now, it is clear that Saints want as many reference points as possible for their best prospects. Add in Under-18s coach Louis Carey, B team coach Dave Horseman and individual player coaches Lee Skyrme and Mikey Harris and it is clear a real effort is being made.
These changes are perhaps due to the growing influence of Matt Crocker after his appointment as Director of Football Operations. He will be bringing in some of the ideas and processes that worked so well in his time at the FA.
With Ralph Hasenhuttl happy to give young players a chance if they are ready, there will not be a better time to try and transfer the next group to senior standards.