Will History Repeat Itself?
Saturday 14th January 2006 at Loftus Road was Theo Walcott`s last appearance in a Southampton shirt. He has since gone on to start only 6 games for the Arsenal first team and has failed to score since his £12million move to the Emirates Stadium.
A year later, and another Southampton starlet could have played his last game for the club, which incidentally was also away at QPR. With Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Newcastle United and even Real Madrid battling it out to sign the 17-year-old left back, some Saints` fans fear they may have seen the last of the Welsh wonderkid.
There are, however, some essential differences between the cases of Walcott and Bale.
Walcott was just 16 when he was sold to Arsenal. If he had not signed a professional contract on his 17th birthday in March last year, Southampton could have lost him for nothing. The board recognized this problem and a fee rising to £12million was the best that could be agreed. Southampton were also lingering dangerously close to the bottom of the Championship and morale was low after a 1-0 defeat away to QPR.
A year later, following a gritty but well-earned 2-0 away victory at QPR, Saints find themselves sitting in the play-off places with a squad more than capable of achieving promotion this season. Bale is an integral part of this squad, and staying at Southampton for the remainder of the season would not only aid his development as a player, but help Saints enormously in their quest for a return to the big-time.
Bale must ask himself whether he wants to be sitting on a hefty pay-cheque at a big club, but also find himself stagnating on the bench, or if he wants to help the club that nurtured him back to the Premiership.