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Cornwall’s Premier League Hopes: Jack Stephens’ Fight to Beat the Drop

25th June 2020

The county of Cornwall is famous for numerous different things. That said, its development of top-flight professional footballers isn’t one. However, since breaking into the first-team setup at Southampton, Jack Stephens is demonstrating that Cornish players can succeed in the Premier League. So, let’s take a look at the 26-year-old's career, in addition to considering the prospect of future Cornish football stars playing top-flight football in the future.  

The Torpoint-Born Defender Has Established Himself at Southampton 


After joining Plymouth Argyle in 2005, the now 26-year-old left the Devon-based club after six years to join Southampton for approximately £150,000. Following his move, Stephens would spend the bulk of the next few seasons out on loan at Swindon Town, Middlesbrough, and Coventry, before returning to the Saints in 2016.  

For Stephens, the loan system has proved to be highly beneficial in seeing him become the first Cornish player to play in the Premier League since Matthew Etherington. Over the course of the 2019-20 top-flight season, the six-foot-one central defender surpassed the 100-game mark at Southampton, with, as of June 17th, 84 of those coming in the Premier League. Crucially, despite not being favoured at the start of the campaign under Ralph Hasenhuttl, Stephens has worked his way back into the first-team, amassing 21 top-tier appearances under the Saints' Austrian manager. 

Fundamentally, the defender’s on-field performances are one of the many reasons as to why, at the time of writing, Southampton are 13/2 to finish in the top half of the league with Space Casino football betting come the end of the campaign. Aside from helping the Saints keep clean sheets in tricky fixtures, including their visit to the Stamford Bridge, the 26-year-old has also provided goalscoring contributions. Most notably, the defender provided the assist for Danny Ings’ winning goal against Tottenham Hotspur at St. Mary’s back in January.  

Giving Hope to Aspiring Cornish Footballers 


While there have only been a handful of Cornish players to grace the sport of football at a professional level, few have been able to establish themselves as a top-flight player as Stephens has. As mentioned above, prior to the central defender, Etherington was the most well-known Cornish footballer to play in the Premier League. Throughout his career, the now 38-year-old winger played a total of 19,851 minutes of Premier League football, according to Transfermarkt.  

Because of their successes, both Etherington and Stephens have showcased to up-and-coming Cornish players that reaching the pinnacle of English football is possible. Despite the county’s lack of football league teams, participation on the south coast has been enhanced in recent years following additional funding from the FA. As per a report by Cornwall FA, the investment sought to grow and develop 68 teams in the area. In turn, this figure was set to cater to just over 1,530 local footballers. 

Crucially, while additional funding isn’t necessarily the difference between reaching the top-flight and falling short, local investment is helping to provide a more sustainable foundation for the county’s football future. As a result, this could prove pivotal in seeing vaster numbers of Cornish players feature in the Premier League in the future. 

Setting a High Standard for the County 


Although Stephens is currently the only Cornish representative in the Premier League to regularly start, he’s continuing to demonstrate the levels of consistency that are required to play in England’s top-flight. While there are no guarantees that the development of professional footballers in Cornwall will drastically alter following the much-needed investment, the chances are undoubtedly higher than before. 

Posted by Mark at 8:37pm

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