Redknapp wins battle for youngster

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The Independent Football

Harry Redknapp has advised one of the English game's brightest young players to stick with him if he wants to succeed after the 15-year-old Theo Walcot signed a new contract which will keep him at Southampton until 2008.

Harry Redknapp has advised one of the English game's brightest young players to stick with him if he wants to succeed after the 15-year-old Theo Walcot signed a new contract which will keep him at Southampton until 2008.

Walcott will be not be 16 until 16 March but that still gives him time to break the record for the youngest ever Premiership player. Leeds United's Aaron Lennon made his debut against Tottenham as a substitute in August 2003, aged 16 years and 129 days.

Walcott, from Berkshire, who is reported to have run the 100 metres in 11.7sec at the age of 14 and is already Southampton's youngest ever reserve-team player, is moving closer to first-team football thanks to his fine performances. Redknapp, who saw him score the winner in Southampton's 1-0 FA Youth Cup victory over Arsenal recently, said: "He is a real prospect."

Walcott plays for England Under-17s despite being 15 and has been watched by Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, with the latter even reported to be willing to pay £2m for him. But he has signed a new deal at St Mary's to the delight of Redknapp, who said: "He is doing the right thing because he will get more chance to play in the first team here," he said.

"It is good for the club. It is important you keep your best kids. He is better off here because he'll get the chance to play. If he goes to a bigger club he may never get the opportunity. I've seen a million talented kids go that way and fade away."

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