BBC Radio Solent’s Adam Blackmore has provided a crucial update on Southampton captain and key man James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse has now missed three of Saints’ pre-season friendlies after picking up a minor knee injury and was not able to play against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday as rumours continue to fly about his future – Aston Villa and Leicester City have both recently been linked with a move for the 26-year-old.
However, strong responses have been sent out via the media. Adam Blackmore tweeted earlier today that Ward-Prowse is “close to full fitness” and that his absence from the field of play is nothing to do with the transfer rumours.
Hampshire Live’s Tom Leach has also dismissed reports that claimed Leicester City have made an offer for last season’s ever-present midfielder, saying that there is “nothing in the reports”.
Southampton must take care of their most crucial player with Ings gone
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With Danny Ings’ £30m transfer to Aston Villa confirmed last Wednesday, it is clear that James Ward-Prowse is Saints’ main player now – that’s if he was not already.
The England international has played a lot of football in the last two years having been ever-present in 2019/20 and 2020/21 and has shown unbelievable fitness in the process. When small injuries appear, it is crucial that Saints manage his workload properly and that looks to be what they are doing.
Forming a vital partnership with Oriol Romeu in midfield is not the only thing that Ward-Prowse does these days. His set-pieces and open play contributions provide goals directly and his much-improved robustness means he is an ultra-tough competitor as he screens the defence behind him.
A slight wobble in preparations for the 2021/22 season has been seen with the departure of Ings and it is characters like Ward-Prowse who will not be needed to lead the team forwards.
He is the player that fans connect with now and he will be the focal point for young players progressing through from the club’s academy right now, so he needs to be playing as much as possible once injuries are managed.