Saints stalwart Ward-Prowse gets first senior England call-up thanks to Puel

James Ward-Prowse owes a debt of gratitude to Southampton manager Claude Puel after being named in the England senior squad for the first time on Thursday.

As the club's longest-serving player, Ward-Prowse has seen more than his fair share of chopping and changing in the dugout at the St Mary's Stadium. From Nigel Adkins, who handed him his debut as a 16-year-old, to Mauricio Pochettino, whom he credits as having the biggest influence on his career, and from Ronald Koeman to Puel, the midfielder has also played under a variety of contrasting characters.

But thanks to Puel's expert tutelage Ward-Prowse, now 22, has finally been able to hold down a regular spot in Southampton's starting lineup. This has afforded him the confidence to fully express the undoubted talents he has always possessed.

For years Ward-Prowse, called up by Gareth Southgate for next week's internationals with Germany and Lithuania, has found himself as Saints' odd man out. Deemed good enough to be named in virtually every squad when fully fit since their elevation to the Premier League in 2012 and to come into the team in a variety of different roles, Ward-Prowse never did quite what was required to convince Adkins, Pochettino or Koeman.

Perhaps Ward-Prowse's versatility has at times been his undoing, but he has never let anybody down, whether it's filling in as a holding midfielder in front of the back four or replacing Steven Davis' boundless energy in a more advanced role.

Whenever he has been asked about his preferred position, Ward-Prowse has claimed he's a central midfielder, modelling himself on Premier League greats Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. But when assessing the strengths of his game, he has always looked more ideally suited for a wider berth.

Having whiled away endless hours watching videos of David Beckham, another of his big schoolboy heroes, he has become almost a clone of the Manchester United icon -- predominately right-footed and lacking the blistering burst of pace needed to regularly go past defenders on their outside, but with an uncanny ability to deliver the ball on a sixpence for his teammates, be it from open play or dead-ball situations.

That is why Puel's switch from the midfield diamond that he had deployed for much of the season to a more free-flowing 4-2-3-1 system has helped Ward-Prowse finally shine in Saints colours and produce the level of performance seasoned watchers of England's under-21s have witnessed on a regular basis.

It is such displays -- like against Manchester United in last month's EFL Cup final, when his deliveries from the wings terrified Jose Mourinho's men -- that have also persuaded England coach Southgate to reward Ward-Prowse with a place in his squad.

Having given Ward-Prowse his first Young Lions cap, Southgate also knows the player, once labelled a "model professional" by Pochettino, has the right temperament to be the perfect ambassador for his country.

The son of a barrister, Ward-Prowse has always conducted himself impeccably, never complaining when he has found himself on the bench, using every knockback as motivation to prove his doubters wrong and putting in extra hours on the training ground.

It is that attitude that has taken Ward-Prowse from League One to the ultimate accolade of being recognised by your country via a Wembley final. And all thanks to Adkins, Pochettino and Koeman, but mainly Puel, who will have Ward-Prowse as one of the first names on his teamsheet when Southampton travel to Tottenham on Sunday.