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The one and only James Ward-Prowse

The one and only James Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse has now scored the second most direct free-kicks in Premier League history – his route to get there has involved some difficult decisions.


Transcript

Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker. 

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today, why free-kick specialist James Ward-Prowse is his own man.

***

“Jose Sa said look…make sure there’s at least two in the wall here because he might actually have a crack here at this late stage…”

Sky Sports

That was Wolves attempting to organise their wall last weekend, as Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse stepped up to take a free-kick from 35 yards out. 

And even though they knew that he might have a go, there was nothing they could do to stop it. 

“Oh! What a goal! What an astounding free-kick! Well you’ve got no right to score from that sort of range. That is a belter, there’s not many better in the world at scoring from a free-kick than James Ward-Prowse and there’s another example.” 

Sky Sports

His side may have lost 3-1, but with that strike, James Ward-Prowse had taken his free-kick tally to 12 – the second-most direct free-kick goals in Premier League history. 

The man at the top of that chart? You guessed it…

“Beckham…goal! A free-kick struck to perfection!”

Sky Sports

James Ward-Prowse has scored all of his free-kicks for one club – Southampton. Just like Beckham scored all of his Premier League free-kicks for Manchester United. 

Playing for United was Beckham’s boyhood dream. He’d always been a fan of the club. 

And even though James Ward-Prowse has always been loyal to Southampton since he joined their academy at the age of eight – that’s where the similarities to Beckham come to an abrupt halt. 

In the words of his barrister father John, James is “Portsmouth born and bred.” 

The family had season tickets at Fratton Park. They went to the FA Cup final in 2010, when Portsmouth lost 1-0 to Chelsea. 

“History will be made at Wembley today however this ends… Chelsea are aiming for the perfection of a league-and-cup-double, something the club has never achieved. Portsmouth could finish the season as FA Cup winners in the same season as relegation… that has never happened before either.” 

Chelsea FC

As you just heard, Portsmouth were relegated to the Championship that season. They were placed into administration too, with 135 million pounds of debt hanging over them.

And around that time, James Ward-Prowse was making his decision about which club to join. He’d played for both Portsmouth and Southampton under-nines. 

His dad says that they were “disillusioned with the set-up” at Portsmouth, and in contrast that he “couldn’t speak highly enough” of the youth facilities at rivals Southampton.

The rest, as they say, is history.

You’d have to say that James Ward-Prowse made the right choice at the age of nine. He’s made 344 appearances for Southampton and he’s become their captain. He has nine England caps.

Portsmouth are in League One. 

And the free-kicks? 

David Beckham holds the Premier League record with 18. James Ward-Prowse has 12.

And free-kicks were at an all-time low in the Premier League last season. Only 13 were scored in total. Four of those came from James Ward-Prowse. He was the only player to score more than one direct free-kick. That’s never happened before. 

The most free-kick goals scored in a single Premier League season was 41 in 2007/2008. So as you can see, it’s becoming a rare skill. But James Ward-Prowse has the knack. And at 27, he’s got time yet to go after Beckham’s record. 

“Of course, the nearer I’m getting to David Beckham’s record, the more I’m growing in confidence and it’s something to aim for. I think it’s definitely doable to reach that record. So err..keep my fingers crossed.”

Premier League

As you heard, James Ward-Prowse really wants Beckham’s record. 

But in the same way he opted not to follow Beckham in joining his boyhood club, and he doesn’t actually list Beckham as his inspiration, either. 

Instead, it’s another player from the Beckham era…

“I’d have to go Steven Gerrard. He was a Captain, he was a leader. He scored great goals, he took set-pieces and yeah…he played with a real passion and a drive, which I try to emulate in my game, so yeah I’ll go with Steven Gerrard.” 

Premier League

So there you have it. James Ward-Prowse may have started life as a Portsmouth fan. He may be chasing David Beckham’s free-kick record. 

But he is most certainly following his own path. 

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.