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Southampton Football Club’s Irish Gold Mine

Southampton’s owners, Sports Republic, have been on the lookout for a League of Ireland club to bolster the multi-team model that they desire to build. The group has already acquired stakes in French Ligue 2 club Valenciennes and Turkish second-tier club Göztepe. Southampton is the epicentre, and Sports Republic has also started to centralise its scouting network so that rather than work for the clubs individually, they work for Sports Republic as a whole.

Southampton’s Plan

Sources close to Attacking Football can confirm that Southampton have been speaking to clubs Dundalk FC and Shelbourne. But as of yet, neither talks materialised into anything significant leading to the acquisition of either club or investment. Sport Republic feels they have found a potential gold mine in the League of Ireland. With the level of young talent and potential it has to offer, it has yet to be used to its full potential.

Ireland has a whole host of talent that has come from their youth ranks, with the likes of Gavin Bazunu, Evan Ferguson, and Chiedozie Ogbene featuring in the League of Ireland. All of these players have played for Premier League clubs. Although the sample is small, that doesn’t mean the talent is also small.

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The Talent

Southampton has been linked with several Irish talents, like Waterford forward Romeo Akachukwu (17), and has lodged an apparent €500,000 bid. They have also been linked with 18-year-old Joe O’Brien Whitmarsh from Cork City, and scouts were also sent to watch St. Patrick’s Adam Murphy in the FAI Cup Final. The links are there, and the intent is apparent with the idea that Southampton uses the Irish club as a place to produce and harbour high-level Irish talent.

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The Idea

In doing this, it also offers a place to send some of the club’s youth players who need first-team football minutes but aren’t good enough for Southampton yet. The Irish Club allows sending the players out on loan and developing them in a decent-level league as a feeder club. Some may say this would harm the League of Ireland; however, it simply wouldn’t. Southampton is investing in the league by purchasing talented youngsters; there is also a place to watch some of Southampton’s great academy talents on display in the league, improving the quality of players.

The Comparisons

The feeder club gets hated for doing so; however, there is undoubtedly a place for it in the League of Ireland with the obvious talent that is a low-risk, high reward for Southampton and benefits the League of Ireland. Clubs like Man City have got the multi-club model down to a tee, with a lot of their clubs coming to success, with the ownership of Spanish side Girona coming to the forefront of the news at the moment, with the club playing excellent football and competing with La Liga giants sitting 2nd, level on point with Real Madrid and 7 points ahead of Barcelona in 3rd.

Southampton and their owner, Sports Republic, admire this model and want to replicate it or base their ideas on the success of The City Group. They have also poached six of Manchester City’s youth talent, including Romeo Lavia, Sam Edozie, Shea Charles, Gavin Bazunu, Juan Larios, and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Along with the players, they also signed senior members of the Manchester City staff, such as Joe Shields. Jason Wilcox, the academy director at Manchester City, took his place and is now closely collaborating with manager Russell Martin on the organization’s transfer strategy.

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The Conclusion

The model offers success if you do it correctly; copying the Manchester City system is a perfect way to ensure success after seeing the success it has given them. The critical idea is to not abuse the links too much, especially in the League of Ireland, as it could cause people to get upset and really against the concept; however, if the links are used well and to good use, then it will come good and be very beneficial to the club.

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