Bale a shining example - Adkins
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins thinks Gareth Bale is the perfect role model for the club's new batch of up-and-coming stars.
Bale returns to St Mary's Stadium on Sunday for the first time since he left the south-coast club for Tottenham as a left-back, having just graduated from the club's famed academy, which also produced the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Alan Shearer.
The 23-year-old has added bags of strength, power and skill to his game since moving to White Hart Lane and he is now considered one of the most devastating attacking players in the world.
Yet, despite his rise to stardom, Bale is also regarded as one of the most grounded players in the Tottenham squad.
James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw are just two of the players who have recently made the step up from academy to first team, and Adkins thinks the duo could learn a lot from how Bale has handled himself throughout his career.
"He is a very professional player," the Southampton manager said.
"He looks after his lifestyle and he is reaping the rewards for doing that.
"He is a shining example of how professional you need to be to be successful at the top level."
Bale will return to Spurs' starting line-up having missed their last two games following the birth of his first child.
And, judging by the team's lack of penetration in their defeat to Chelsea and draw with Maribor, the Londoners will welcome back the wide man with open arms.
Before his absence Bale had started to rediscover the kind of form that terrorised Inter Milan at White Hart Lane two years ago.
Adkins is aware of Bale's talents, but he insists his men cannot afford to concentrate solely on shackling the winger tomorrow.
"Every player in the opposition is a threat," Adkins said.
"To concentrate on one player means you neglect the others."
Given their inept defensive performances of late, the south-coast strugglers could have been forgiven for wishing Bale's partner had waited another week before going in to labour.
The Saints' 4-1 thrashing at the hands of West Ham highlighted once again the defensive frailties that have seen the club take only four points from their opening eight games.
Defender Jose Fonte, who was particularly poor in the defeat at Upton Park, admits his team must improve at the back.
"It's obvious where we have been making mistakes. We know that we can't keep on conceding goals like last week," he said.
"We just need to concentrate and make sure we don't repeat them this weekend."
Southampton's poor league form has left them second from bottom of the table and has raised questions about Adkins' future.
The former Scunthorpe manager has the backing of the majority of Saints fans, having guided the club to back-to-back promotions, and he insisted yesterday that he did not feel his position was under threat.
Indeed Fonte says the 47-year-old has been as jolly as ever around the training ground this week, despite last weekend's humbling in east London.
"This week he was very enthusiastic, as he always is," Fonte said.
"He was trying to keep everyone positive because it's a long season.
"We are only eight games in. There are a lot more points on the table for us to get so we have to make sure we take our points on Sunday."