Walcott could return to bedevil the Saints
Theo Walcott is 29. It is a detail to re-check because Walcott still looks about 16. It was at that age he burst onto football’s broad consciousness with a move to Arsenal that was a sensation. Arsenal were said to be paying £12 million for a teenager.
Southampton were the club Walcott was leaving, and today, now an Everton player, Walcott faces his first club at Goodison. Southampton’s Premier League future is in jeopardy, and Walcott can make the situation worse.
Walcott’s 2006 transfer can be seen as the beginning of a Southampton sales pattern that has left them in this scramble. Gareth Bale went to Tottenham two years later. Three years on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Walcott at Arsenal.
Those are three significant departures. Then in the summer of 2014 Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert left for Liverpool, Callum Chambers for Arsenal, Luke Shaw for Manchester United and Jack Cork for Swansea.
They have been followed out by Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sadio Mane, Gaston Ramirez, Victor Wanyama, Jose Fonte, Jay Rodriguez and Virgil Van Dijk.
Lovren, Lallana, Clyne, Mane and Van Dijk. Liverpool. Champions League final.
This all had to tell on Southampton, or so you would think. It could in the next four days. Everton away, Swansea away. If relegation comes, the roll call of sales will be read out again. But what is as startling is that Southampton have managed so well without these players. They have a productive academy and have bought cleverly. Six seasons in the Premier League have brought four top-eight finishes.
Logic says the business model at St Mary’s ultimately leads to relegation. Southampton have fought that idea but on Merseyside, home of so many of their former players, Walcott could deliver a harsh reminder.
Theo Walcott in his Southampton days