Seven youngsters sign first professional deals


Southampton Football Club has awarded seven members of the Academy their first professional contracts.

Ethan Burnett, Matt Hall, Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo, Jayden Smith, Will Tizzard, Jack Turner and Oliver Wright have all been handed deals which will see them progress further through the Academy and join Dave Horseman’s B-team side.

Central midfielder Burnett, who has been at the club since the age of nine, amassed 17 appearances last season with the majority coming in Premier League 2.

The 19-year-old said this moment is one he has waited a long time for and he can’t wait to get started.

“It’s a great moment for me and my family,” he said. “Obviously I’ve had the difficult injury but I’m glad the club have stuck by me so now I can prove to them why.

“I’m in my eleventh season now and come along a lot as a person and a player. I’m just looking forward to another year and to keep pushing.

“The philosophies of this club are great; they give opportunities to young players which is what we’re here for. The facilities and coaching, you can’t get much better than what it is here.

“Hopefully I can get in and around the first team, maybe get a debut too somewhere along the line. But on a personal level just stay fit and get a strong full season in.”

Goalkeeper Hall joined the club at Under-15s level and made 11 appearances last season for the club’s Under-18s side.

“This feels like a milestone in what I want to be a long journey here,” said the 18-year-old. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long while.

“Since I’ve joined the club has helped me develop a lot, from extra sessions after training, to the gym work and the programmes they have.

“The facilities are great and the coaches are too. The way everything is programmed towards the individual and the individual help they give I’ve found really helpful.

“I want to get as many games as possible and keep developing myself, then hopefully train with the first team and be in-and-around that environment.”

Otseh-Taiwo particularly impressed within the B-team set-up towards the latter end of last season, becoming a regular in Horseman’s back four and making 28 appearances across both age groups.

The 18-year-old right back, who joined Saints six years ago, is eager for more of these experiences going forward.

“It’s what every young player looks forward to,” he said. “From being here from the age of 16 this is a really big stepping stone.

“How good the club are with young players, especially seeing Kegs [Chauke] last season. We’re the same age and have been at the club a while together.

“To see him push on really inspired me and I want to push on to follow in his footsteps.”

17-year-old striker Smith has been at the club for four years and amassed 28 appearances across the B team and Under-18s last campaign.

“I’m very delighted,” said the young forward. “I’ve waited for this day my whole life and it’s been a long time coming.

“I’ve been at the club four years now and I feel like I’ve developed really well. The facilities are very, very good. The coaches have helped me developed a lot compared to when I was in grassroots.

“The playing style at Southampton suits the way I play and how I am as a player. So next season I want to score as many goals as possible and get a regular starting place in the B team.

Centre-back Tizzard’s performances during 2020/21 saw him awarded the scholar of the year award.

The 18-year-old made 19 appearances for the Academy last season and is looking ahead to a new season of challenges.

“It’s definitely a big moment for me and my family,” he said, “I’m really proud and quite honoured to be honest.

“I’ve been at the club since I was about nine through the Bath academy. I’ve developed loads since then and learnt loads, especially in the last few years.

“It’s a privilege to use these facilities, I think now I just want to be as consistent as possible with my performances and see where I can go from there.”

Turner is another individual who was a regular within the Under-18s set-up last season, making 26 appearances in all for the side.

After signing his first professional deal the 18-year-old is excited for what the future will bring.

“It’s an honour for me and my family,” he said, “it’s a day I’ve worked hard for and I just can’t wait to get started.

“I’ve been at the club ten years and felt I’ve developed well. I just can’t wait to get back out playing again.

“If you look back on the years gone by, the talent they’ve bought through here, that in itself speaks for itself.”

Finally is goalkeeper Oliver Wright who joined the club nearly ten years ago at the age of nine.

“I’m delighted to sign the deal,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard up until this point so it’s a proud moment for me and my family.

“This is my tenth season now and I feel I’ve developed massively over the years, thanks to the coaching staff and the facilities here.

“The amount of players Southampton produce along with the support I have around me, it’s definitely the best place for me."

Academy Director Matt Hale said: “It’s great to see these young players sign their first professional contracts with the club.

“There is a real nice blend of players from different aspects of our Academy programme. We have players such as Ollie Wright, Ethan Burnett, Will Tizzard and Jack Turner who have been with us since a very early age, then others have come through our Development Centre programme and Bath Academy.

“We also have Matt Hall, Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo and Jayden Smith joined us a little later in the pathway between 14 and 16 after extensive recruitment work from our scouting team.

“I’m particularly delighted for Ethan Burnett who has come through some real adversity with a serious injury during his scholarship years and delighted to see him sign today.

It will be great to see them in pre-season training and progressing further as our new first year professionals at the Club."