There are many players who ply their trade in the top flight that never quite get the recognition that they deserve. The kind of midfielder who puts in a decent shift on a weekly basis and keeps things ticking over is always in danger of being overlooked in favour of more flashy and stylish operators. James Ward-Prowse is one of those players who perhaps doesn’t get enough plaudits for his hard-working and diligent approach to games. The 24-year old has been exceptional under new boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, and Southampton fans have been full-of-praise for their versatile midfielder.
The 24-year old has been at Saint Mary’s for the last ten years and he’s played in a variety of positions during his spell with the club. His form dipped under previous manager Mark Hughes, and he struggled to get a game during the first half of the campaign. However, he’s enjoyed a superb start to 2019 and has raised his level significantly since Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced the Welshman in the dugout.
He has been singled out for praise by the Austrian, who spoke about his “good development” and the fact that he can play in “nearly every position”. He also noted an improvement in his aggression levels and his ability to win the ball back. Ward-Prowse isn’t renowned for his goalscoring ability but he’s found the net three times since the turn of the year, and each of those finishes have helped the club earn crucial points in their battle to avoid the drop.
Ward-Prowse’s recent form has coincided with an upturn in results and the Saints have slowly begun to clamber away from the relegation zone as a result. They remained unbeaten in their first five matches of 2019 but there is still plenty of work to be done. William Hill have them priced up as 12/1 shots for relegation this season although if they continue their upward momentum, those odds are likely to become significantly larger. Huddersfield’s time in the top tier looks destined to end this season and they are the 1/100 favourites ahead of Fulham, who are currently available at 1/5.
The club’s academy graduate has always been a solid operator but the majority of his performances have had the tendency to go under-the-radar. He is a dead-ball specialist who has created numerous goalscoring opportunities over the last few months, but his versatility has perhaps counted against him. Under previous regimes, he was often viewed as a decent option from the bench. However, under Hasenhuttl, he has quickly become one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Watford were reportedly lining up a £10million bid for the midfielder last summer, but the offer never materialised. If Ward-Prowse continues to influence games in such a positive manner, his price-tag is likely to double and the possibility of an England call-up cannot be ruled out.
Ward-Prowse isn’t one of the Premier League’s more glamorous names, but he is certainly an effective operator who is currently enjoying a purple patch on the south coast. He doesn’t get the plaudits that he perhaps deserves but his contributions shouldn’t be overlooked, and he could be the man to help propel slow-starting Southampton towards mid-table security.