Pen portraits by Spot51
|Gavin's roots are in Nigeria but he was born in Dublin and grew up in the south of Ireland's capital. The young keeper joined Shamrock Rovers academy but was promoted to their first team aged 16. He played 6 times, 4 in the Irish top division and kept 6 clean sheets which included saving a penalty away at Cork City.
These exploits alerted Manchester City who paid over £400K to take him to the Etihad in February 2019 where he played for their academy sides. He won his first U17 Irish caps that year and was so good he was put straight into their U21s. He never played for City's 1st team but was on the bench when they faced Real Madrid in the ECL in August 2020..
Soon after, he began his first loan spell playing for League 1 Rochdale, appearing 29 times before their season was curtailed by Covid. 2021 also saw him win the first of 10 full caps for Ireland and he was voted RTE's Young Sportsperson of the year.
Last summer he went to Pompey on loan and they loved him. Baz was their Player of the Season. Can't imagine they were overjoyed to see him come to us but City were happy to take our cash and Gavin now gets a shot at the EPL. I hope playing behind our defence at Spurs did not leave him traumatised…
|Growing up in western Poland, goalkeeper Mateus joined the academy of his local club before moving on to Zielona Góra at age 11. In 2014 he was recruited by top flight Lech Poznan but never played in their first team. During the next 4 seasons he played 21 games for the reserves and had 4 loan spells to lower league sides. He also gained 5 caps for Poland U18s and later won 3 more at U19/20.
In 2014 he was transferred to Wisla Krakow where he played 69 top flight games in 3 seasons. Last year he moved to Izmir in Turkey where he made 35 appearances for Altay in the Super Lig but was released following relegation in the summer.
|Armel's dad was a Cameroon international striker who plied his trade in Germany's lower leagues. At a tender age Armel joined the academy at Ahlen where his dad had played, then moved round various academies before winding up at Bochum in 2017.
He was given his professional contract in March 2019 and made his Bundesliga 2 debut the following month. He was soon called up by Germany, winning 5 caps at U18, another at U20 and currently has 9 U21 caps.
Over the next 2 seasons ABK played 44 times. In the cup against Bayern he marked first Gnabry, then Lewandowski out of the game bringing him to international attention. In 2021 Bochum were promoted as champions and the 6 ft 3 youngster then played 26 times in the top flight, as right centre back in a 4-3-3. Bochum finished on 39 points, comfortably safe.
He was watched by Manchester United, Spurs and several top German clubs but the chance to play in the Prem at Southampton was too great an incentive. He came here for a fee of about £10 Million and claimed the number 37 shirt he had worn in Germany. In internationals, he is required to wear number 5.
|Born in Belgium from Congolese stock, Romeo joined Anderlecht's academy at age 8. Whilst playing at an U15 international tournament (organised by Kevin de Bruyne) he was spotted by Pep Guardiola who had been invited by KDB. The City boss was impressed and arranged for Romeo to move to City in 2020.
He played a few games in midfield for the U18s but was swiftly promoted to the U23s who went on to win the Premier League 2 that season. Already capped by Belgium at U15 and U16 he won 10 caps for their U19s, scoring once. Last season he was part of City's 1st XI squad making his debut aged 17, against Wycombe in the EFL Cup last September, and was booked. Earlier this year he won his first U21 cap for Belgium.
A highly regarded defensive midfielder who styles himself on Sergio Busquests and Fernandino, Lavia joined Saints for a fee of around £10 million.
|Joe comes from Nigerian stock but grew up in South London. He joined the Kinetic Academy and learned close control playing cage football in his teens. His first club was Staines Town but during his first season he had a successful trial at Charlton who he joined in the summer of 2015. He didn't play for the first XI that season when Athletic were relegated to League 1.
Joe made his debut in October 2016 and during the next 3 seasons played 22, 36 then 39 times scoring 0, 6 then 10 times. He was already being scouted by clubs higher up the food chain, including Saints apparently. A personal visit from Glasgow by Steven Gerrard convinced Joe his future lay at Rangers who he joined in 2019. His 3 seasons there saw him regularly playing in the 1st team, amassing 149 games and scoring 26 goals: the last being in the Europa League Final v Eintract.
Joe is a box to box midfielder but has been deployed as both winger and striker during his career. He was called up by Nigeria in 2019 and currently has 20 caps and 2 goals (v Ukraine and Brazil!)
|Sekou's parents are French TV presenter Audrey Crespo Mara and Aliou Mara the Senegalese entrepreneur. Mara grew up in Paris and joined PSG aged 8. At 12 he left as they would not play him at centre forward, joining his local Sports Club in Boulogne.
In 2019 he joined Bordeaux and played 14 times for the B team, scoring 5 times. In 2020 he moved up to the first team squad. In his first season he scored once in 9 games but, as Bordeaux grappled with huge debts, last season he played 27 games, scoring 6, Bordeaux were relegated and, with creditors at the gate, assets were sold.
At 6ft and with a turn of pace, Mara provides a different attacking option for Saints. He has already collected 18 youth international caps for France and scored 6 times.
|Duje hails from the ancient city of Sibenik on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia. He joined his local club aged 8. In the 12/13 season he played 17 games for the first team and he won his first youth caps for Croatia. His side finished 4th in the 2nd tier but were relegated for “financial irregularities”. Duje moved to Pasching in Austria who, despite playing in a regional league, were sponsored by Red Bull and had just won the Austrian Cup beating Austria Wien in the final. He played 15 games scoring 3 times as Pasching finished 2nd. The imminent withdrawal of Red Bull’s backing encouraged Duje to move and he followed his coach to Red Bull Salzburg.
He spent the next season at 2nd tier Liefering making 20 appearances but returned to Salzburg for the next 3 seasons playing 84 times and scoring 4. Those years saw Salzberg win 3 league titles and the cup twice while Duje increased his youth caps tally to 43 with 7 goals scored. From 2015 he was called into Croatia’s Euros squad but never played. He made his debut in 2018 and went to the World Cup in Russia, played against Iceland and collected a runners up medal!
In Europe RBS never made it to the ECL but in his 2nd and 3rd seasons DCC played in the Europa Cup. They fell at the group stage first but in 17/18 won their group with Marseilles in 2nd. Knockout wins over Sociedad, Dortmund and Lazio brought them back together with Marseilles in the semi-final which the French won 4-3 on aggregate.
Within weeks Duje had signed for Marseilles where he spent the next 3 seasons with 130 appearances and 5 goals. They finished runners up in 20 and 22 and he played in all 3 UEFA competitions.
In 2019 he “fell out” with Croatia by refusing to go to the U21 Euros and then going on holiday. Turns out his club coaches had told him not to play in the summer as he was knackered after the World Cup. He didn't get a senior game till later that year when (with Vida and Lovren suspended) he was brought back to ensure qualification for the 2020 Euros. There he played against England. He has 23 senior caps and one goal.
|Ainsley Maitland Niles is of West Indian descent and grew up in London. He enrolled in the Arsenal Academy aged 6. He rose through the ranks before joining the U21s for the 13/14 season and signed his first professional contract the following season. In December he made his first appearances from the bench, in the ECL against Galatasary then his EPL debut 4 days later v Newcastle.
He was soon capped by England U17 and, over the next 4 years, he played at every youth international level, scoring 4 times, winning 38 caps and an U20 World Cup Winners medal. For the 15/16 season he was loaned to Ipswich where he became a fixture in Mick McCarthy's side but, towards the end of the season, injuries saw him miss several matches. It was during the 17/18 season that he established himself in Wenger's first XI and extended his contract with Arsenal.
He also started in Unai Emery's first game but broke his leg. It was a "clean" injury and he was fit again by December. When right back Bellerin did his ACL in January AMN played right back for the rest of that season. He retained that position until his red card allowed Bellerin back in but his versatility kept him involved for the rest of the "Covid season" when Arteta replaced Emery. . He played in Arsenal's cup winning side (2-1 v Chelsea) and was MoM when they won the Community Shield (5-4 on penalties v Liverpool) having scored one of the penalties. He also began to appear in full England Squads and currently has 5 caps.
He found himself playing less during Arteta's first full season and went on loan to West Brom (under Fat Sam) in January but failed to keep them up. A move to Everton fell through that summer but as a bit part player for the Gunners he went to Roma for the second half of last season. He only played a dozen times for Jose but 3 of these were in the Europa Conference so he got a medal when they won it.
Saints had kept an eye on AMN for a while and missed out then he went to WBA. This summer AMN wanted a full season loan with an option to buy and Saints have given him that. He is determined to make this loan a success and, just turned 25, he has his best years immediately ahead. He prefers to play as a winger or wing back but coaches liked him as a full back. He can also play in central midfield which makes him a valuable asset to Ralph's emerging squad.
|Sam has dual nationality from his Nigerian father and English mother. Born in South East London, he went to school in Bromley before joining Millwall. He learned to be a tricky winger in their academy and by 16 was a fixture in their U18 side. Such talent is never unnoticed and the next year he moved to Manchester City for a fee that was still rising as Sam progressed
A year older than team mate Larios, he had 3 seasons with City's all conquering youth teams but in the Summer of 21 found himself working with the first team. He played in all their preseason matches and started the Community Shield game v Leicester before being replaced by Grealish off the bench! Despite being named in further squads that was his only first XI appearance.
This summer he signed a 5 year deal with SFC which presumably has clauses diverting him back to the Etihad should he turn out to be good. He made a brief debut (alongside Maitland Niles) in our defeat at Wolves and is set to be a fixture in Ralph's squad.
Despite winning U19 caps for England, Sam may yet choose to play for The Super Eagles at international level.
|Juan joined the Sevilla academy but at age 12 moved the Barca's famous La Masia academy where such notables as Guardiola, Messi and Oriel Romeu learned their trade. By15 he was already in their U18 side. You'd expect Pep to have contacts there and he maybe heard the comparisons with Jordi Alba. In 2020 he brought the 16yo to City.
He began in the U18s but the following season played for their Premier League 2 winning U21s. Joe Shields would have been well aware this was a star in the making. When he came to Southampton he'd have realised Juan could improve us now. Seems we paid over £6M with sell on, buy back and price match clauses inserted by City.
If he is as good as City think he is, he may well go back but for the time-being we have another exciting youngster pushing for starts.