There’s nothing like having a homegrown hero in your team and Southampton certainly knows all about that.
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Matt Targett is the latest product of Saints’ famed academy to break into the first team and the 20-year-old was born and bred in Southampton.
The England U-21 left back impressed under Ronald Koeman and and broke into the team as a 17-year-old during the 2014-15 Premier League campaign.
Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk ahead of Southampton’s clash with Sunderland this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Targett revealed his pride at representing his team in the Premier League.
“I am immensely proud to be able to play for the club that I grew up watching and following,” Targett explained. “It has played such a big role in my life, having progressed through the academy to the first team. It’s a really special feeling to be able to run out on the St Mary’s turf and play for my hometown team.”
It has been a slow start for Saints this season with one point from their opening two games but new manager Claude Puel is putting his stamp on the team with a new diamond formation in midfield.
Targett — an attacking left back who is comfortable on the ball and can also operate as a wing-back and at left midfield — and his teammates know they must improve in the weeks and months ahead but they are confident they can improve as the season goes on.
“There are areas we know we can improve on as well as positives that we can build on,” Targett said. “Our new signings have integrated well into the group and there is a good feeling in the squad. We know the quality that we have in the team and we’re confident that quality will show.”
Looking ahead to the game against Sunderland this weekend, Targett knows it would be a nice feeling to head into the international break with a win and says Saints have been “working hard in training” to get a positive result against David Moyes‘ men.
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At the ripe age of 20, Targett has now appeared in each of the last three PL campaigns for Saints and has racked up 33 appearances in all competitions despite having England international left back Ryan Bertrand ahead of him in the pecking order.
Target feels like he is ready to keep pushing on this season.
“Every Premier League season is a big one but clearly I am aiming to continue developing and progressing as a player,” Targett said. “I want to keep adding different elements to my game and listening to the coaches on what areas I can work on. It’s a big season for the club with Europa League football too, so I am very much looking forward to that.”
As is usually the case at Southampton, Targett is just one of a number of promising youngsters currently in the system. After selling on the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana to powerhouse clubs, Saints continue to churn out young internationals.
This summer Targett was part of a England U-21 side which had five Saints academy graduates — Arsenal’s Calum Chambers and Saints’ James Ward-Prowse (captain of England), Jack Stephens, Nathan Redmond and Targett himself — and won the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France.
Does he think he and Saints’ other youngsters are ready to play week in, week out in the PL?
“It was fantastic to be part of the winning Toulon team and great for Southampton Football Club to have several players gain that experience on the international stage. The club has a great reputation for nurturing talent and that success with the England under 21 side can only help us,” Targett said. “Although it obviously depends on several factors, the club has consistently shown that it gives youth that opportunity to go out and play in the biggest league in the world.”
On Friday Southampton were drawn against Italian giants Inter Milan, Sparta Prague and Hapoel Beer-Sheva in the UEFA Europa League group stage.
It is the first time Saints have ever reached this stage of the competition and local lad Targett is looking forward to some memorable nights ahead.
“It will be good to test ourselves against some of the best clubs on the continent and I’m sure we’ll be playing in front of some special atmospheres, especially at St Mary’s.”