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Jack Stephens, the Cornwall lad plying his trade in the Premier League

27th January 2020

Jack Stephens was born and grew up in the Cornish town of Torpoint, a small settlement separated from Plymouth by a tidal estuary on the River Tamar. Torpoint has a population of around 8,000; Stephens now regularly does his job at St Mary's Stadium in front of a crowd around four times that size, with thousands more watching at home. Stephens has established himself once again as a Premier League regular for Southampton this season, with the 25-year-old Englishman becoming a central part of Ralph Hasenhuttl's in-form side.

Any English ball-playing centre-back making regular appearances in the Premier League inevitably gets linked with a future in the national setup. Stephens hasn't quite racked up enough matches to be considered a genuine claim for a spot in the England squad, but consistency will thrust him into contention sooner rather than later.

Stephens wouldn't be the first Cornish-born player to appear in an England squad in recent decades. St Austell's Nigel Martyn earned 23 caps in goal for England in the 90s and early 00s, while the Truro-born England youth international Matt Etherington spent ten consecutive seasons in the top flight between 2005 and 2014. Cornwall may not boast a Football League side of its own, but its finest footballers have still found a way to the top.

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Stephens is in his fourth season as a regular part of Southampton's first-team squad, but his performances in recent weeks have made him one of the first names on the teamsheet. Equally comfortable at making last-ditch interceptions as he is at making incisive passes, Stephens has thrived in the tactics deployed by Hasenhuttl. 

The Saints look to get the ball forward with pace, which is where Stephens' deep-lying vision comes in handy. Such an approach can also leave the team exposed at the back, which is why it is crucial to have defenders willing to make vital blocks and stand up to dribblers. With Southampton now flying up the table, Hasenhuttl is unlikely to turn his back on the in-form Stephens.

Southampton started the season as one of the bookmakers' favourites for relegation, but a look at sports betting markets 24 games into the league campaign reveals how drastically their fortunes have changed. As of January 24th, Southampton are 25/1 with NetBet to be relegated from the Premier League. That makes them the tenth favourite to go down; in other words, Southampton are now expected to secure a safe mid-table spot.

Not being embroiled in a relegation battle should give players like Stephens the extra confidence to play their natural game. If one of the Premier League's leading clubs does come calling for a ball-playing English defender, then Stephens won't forget his roots on his way to the top. Stephens spoke of his Torpoint upbringing to the Southampton club website in October 2019, explaining how his football career began in unconventional fashion.

Stephens used to take the ferry across the estuary from Torpoint to Plymouth each day in order to make it to training, as the centre-back was a member of Plymouth's youth teams. He speaks fondly of Torpoint, where friends and family remain, and notes the culture shock he had when Southampton came calling in 2011.

It is fair to say that Stephens has firmly acclimatized after trading Cornwall for Southampton. Is an England call-up the next major landmark in the career of this lad from Torpoint?

Posted by Mark at 4:22pm

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