Academy Manager Matt Hale has spoken of his pride at seeing young forward Michael Obafemi make his international debut for Republic of Ireland and feels it can serve as inspiration to those looking to breakthrough at Southampton.
After being identified by Saints scouting team while playing for Leyton Orient's Academy just 18 months ago, Obafemi’s hard work and performances with the Under-23s have seen him earn the right to train with the first-team, making his debut against Tottenham in January before a second Premier League appearance against Manchester City.
And with senior international recognition following his appearance off the bench against Denmark, Hale reflected on a positive platform from which he can build from.
“It’s been a real fast-track since he joined us at the club over the last 18 months and to get a call-up for senior football is impressive and we’re all very pleased for him,” Hale said.
“He’s been given a lot of advice and guidance but ultimately it’s about what he does. We’re chuffed for him and he’s deserved the opportunity.
“There’s been so much involvement with Michael and all the other boys on a day-to-day basis from all aspects on the Academy. The big emphasis is on that player then being able to deliver on the pitch, but so much more goes on behind the scenes.
“They have their day-to-day programming, the academic side of things as well from the scholarship years. Everyone has had an input into getting Michael where he is and what he’s achieved so all the staff should take great pride in that.”
The pathway from the Academy has always been clear and with the Under-23s flying high in Premier League 2, Hale hopes that there are many more success stories to come.
“It’s a great example. It’s not just Michael’s involvement with our first-team of late but obviously from an international perspective what you can achieve.
“We feel there’s some more players in that group that with that consistency of performance can go on to achieve the things that Michael has got so far.
“Some players develop earlier than others and others need a little bit more patience and time but we’ve seen in the Under-23s, particularly this season, there are some good individuals in there.
“The team have done well collectively, but we think there are one or two more to come through there as well.”