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'Walcott & Bale Were Bound For Greatness'

The stars of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur’s league campaigns so far, Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale, are both products of Southampton’s impressive youth system.

Bale and Walcott were lured away from the South Coast while still teenagers, with a host of top English clubs duking it out over their signatures.

Clive Woodward, who coached England to glory at the Rugby World Cup in 2003, was performance director and then director of football at Southampton when Bale and Walcott were making waves there.

The duo will clash for their respective clubs in the London derby this weekend, and speaking ahead of the game, Wooward says it was evident even when they were just boys that they were earmarked for greatness.

"Whatever the sport, you can see potential greatness in individuals even when they are just kids," Woodward said in the British tabloid media, according to Soccernet.

"Gareth and Theo were just that, kids, when I was at St Mary's but their quality was evident even then as 16-year-olds. 

"Gareth was a flying left-back, Theo a striker or winger. They both had obvious talent and were very exciting to watch, and it helped them greatly to be part of a tremendous academy side.

"If you look at that squad, you'll find players the vast majority of whom are in the Premier League or Championship today."

Of that Southampton cohort, Swansea stars Leon Best and Nathan Dyer, as well as South African-born Norwich midfielder Andrew Surman now play in the Premier League.

"Gareth and Theo were the youngest, and you just sensed they were going to hit the heights,” Woodward continued.

"Right now, they are coveted stars, but people tend to forget the clubs who find, hone and develop such talents. There are people at Southampton, or who were at Southampton when they were developing, who will feel tremendous pride when Gareth and Theo are in action this weekend."

Walcott was initially a bench warmer at Arsenal at the beginning of the season, while he negotiated his future at the club.

But soon before and ever since he signed his new deal, the England international has been the most reliable and eye-catching Gunner.

Bale meanwhile, is confirming his status as one of the top players in the world with every match he plays for Spurs, where he is head and shoulders the best player.

It will be interesting to see which of the Saints old boys will make the biggest impact at White Hart Lane this weekend


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