Matt Targett: Academy starlet tipped to be Luke Shaw’s long-term successor at Southampton.
The illustrious Southampton youth academy academy has produced a high number of talented youngsters over the years, with the most prestigious scholar being the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale. Other notable graduates include Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Luke Shaw, as well as footballing greats Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer prior to the founding of the establishment. With the focus on producing home-grown players and scouting from the surrounding area of Southampton, it’s great news for the future of the England national team and has proven to be a successful formula for the club.
The Saints have made a very solid start to the season and one of the foundations for their early form has been their watertight defence, only conceded five goals in 11 Premier League matches. England internationals Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand have been ever-present in the full-back positions so far, but 19-year-old Matt Targett is tipped to be another academy success story, and some have even tipped him to be Luke Shaw’s long-term successor at left-back.
As a schoolboy Targett attended the Sherborne House School on the outskirts of the Southampton area, which was the platform to kickstarting a career in football through playing in the Saints Foundation after school club. As a boyhood fan of his beloved side, his dream came true when he joined the famous Southampton youth academy at the tender age of eight after being scouted from his local team.
Despite his youthfulness, Targett was selected for the U21 squad a few weeks into the 2012/13 Barclays Under-21 Premier League and has been a regular ever since stepping up.
Targett was named on the bench for the senior side for the first time in the League Cup tie against Bristol City last September, but had to wait until April 26 2014 to make the bench in the Premier League, where he was an unused sub in a 2-0 home win against Everton.
Despite not breaking into the first team in the 2013/14 season, he earned his first call up for the England Under-19’s in November 2013, going on to make four appearances and three for England’s Under-20’s. As well as representing England at Under-19 and Under-20 level, Targett made two appearances for Scotland’s Under-19’s before electing to play for England.
The full-back played the full 90 minutes in a recent 1-1 against Turkey for the Under-20’s fellow teammate Harrison Reed also made a start for his country.
It was reported that Arsenal, Chelsea And Liverpool showed interest in early 2013, with some even predicting Arsenal would move in for the youngster, but instead elected for another former Saint’s full back, Calum Chambers. The 19-year-old had reportedly opened talks with his agent over a new 5-year contract with the club in late September, but nothing has yet to be decided or confirmed.
After 11 years in the system, this youngster has started to emerge as a first team squad member, making a total of four appearances, three of which have been in the League Cup and one as a late substitute in the Premier League. Although Targett has only played one minute of Premier League football, the full-back has been named on the bench several times so far this season, but not since 27 September. He has looked very confident playing in as right-back in the League Cup so far, particularly in an excellent team performance which saw the Saints overcome Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates.
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Similar to Luke Shaw, Targett is reliable defensively and is also capable of getting forward well, which is always advantageous as a modern day full-back. His main style of play is fairly relaxed, always looking to offload the ball, create chances and provide a decent balance between defence and attack. In comparison to Shaw, he is less attack-minded, but an assured defensive player with a sweet left foot, capable of playing left full-back and at centre-back.
His defensive capabilities are a major strength, especially as modern day full-backs are often seen as failed wingers, where it’s rare to find a full-back able to take care of defensive duties as well as offensive. Although he is so composed for such a young player, his speed is undoubtedly his major strength. Although seen as a reserved player and one that doesn’t always bomb forward in attack, Targett’s driving run lead to Graziano Pelle’s opening goal in the league cup tie against Arsenal, as he offloaded the ball to the marksman in space and sucked players in towards him in the build-up.
One weakness which has been evident in Targett’s game has been discipline after picking up two yellow cards in three League Cup appearances. Although he shares some similarities with Luke Shaw’s impressive forwards runs and defensive duties, Targett doesn’t quite have the positional awareness just yet, which could also be put down to his tender age.
So what next for the youngster? His first challenge is to become first choice right-back at the club, which is a tough task as season-long loanee Ryan Bertrand has been very consistent since his move. If Bertrand’s form continues, then Southampton may want to sign the player on a permanent basis depending on the full back’s decision of whether to fight for his place at Chelsea or play regular football for the Saint’s. Targett is in the perfect place for progression right now and is one of a few Southampton scholars that look like they have a bright future in store.