Southampton manager Nigel Adkins proud of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Former Saint has flourished at Arsenal

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins is proud of the way Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is developing but warned the winger that he and his Arsenal team-mates face a tough test at St Mary's tomorrow.

The 19-year-old is a graduate of the south coast club's fabled academy system, following in the footsteps of players like Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott.

Oxlade-Chamberlain made his name under the tutorship of Adkins, helping Saints secure automatic promotion from npower League One in 2011.

Much has changed since the winger's £15million move to north London, with the teenager now an England international and Southampton once again back in the top flight.

Oxlade-Chamberlain makes his first return to St Mary's tomorrow and Adkins is proud of the winger.

"I think he will get a fantastic reception," the Saints boss said. "He is one of the players that came through out system.

"We are excited watching him play. We'd love him to still be at Southampton, but he is an Arsenal player now and an England international.

"I went to watch him against Reading the other night and he was exhilarating, with his acceleration to go away, a desire to get on the football. He is a joy to watch.

"I think everybody at Southampton is proud of what he is doing now.

"Everybody at the football club has had a role and a responsibility to play in Alex's development, but it is down to him as well. He is an exciting young talent."

Walcott is another former Saints academy graduate due to return to his former home tomorrow.

Both featured for the Gunners in September when they ran riot against the newly-promoted side, beating them 6-1.

Saints may be in the bottom three heading into tomorrow's game, but they are a different proposition now due to a new-found sturdiness and confidence,

"We have improved and grown in maturity all the way through," Adkins said.

"Obviously we had a baptism of fire coming into the Barclays Premier League when you look at the fixtures we had at the start of the campaign.

"We have only lost two of the last nine games, which is important and both of them were narrow 1-0 defeats.

"I think we have got a group of players that have become more accustomed to the level that we are at.

"At Arsenal we did all right for the first half an hour and then Jos Hooiveld got injured and I had to bring Maya Yoshida on for this debut.

"He had only had one day's training with us and for 15 minutes Arsenal gave us a good doing, but we have improved.

"We have grown in maturity and we are looking forward to the next run of fixtures we've got."

Adkins will also have half an eye on potential business with the transfer window reopening tomorrow.

He today confirmed Saints had a £6million bid rejected for Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland in the summer following recent comments from City's acting chairman, Peter Pannu.

Adkins would not be drawn on whether he would make another move for the England goalkeeper and was similarly coy when asked about reports linking Southampton with Cagliari defender Davide Astori.

"I am aware of him, I know he is a good centre-half," Adkins said of the Italy international.

"We haven't put a bid in as far as I am aware and I don't think we've made any enquiries about him.

"You've asked me if I know about him and I know about him. We've got a very good European scouting network now.

"There are lots of players that we talk about, we are aware of, we scout but it doesn't mean we're going to buy them or make any inquiries.

"You need to be aware of them and that is something we have developed a lot over the last 12 months.

"Paul Mitchell has come in as head of recruitment from that point of view and it is something we've improved a hell of a lot of.

"We have a lot more contacts, a lot more of contacts we can ask, which is important."

PA

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