James Ward-Prowse's iconic moments for Southampton and England

After rising through the ranks at Southampton to become their ever-present captain, Ward-Prowse has established himself as one of the most consistent players in the Premier League.

A box-to-box midfielder with a free-kick technique likened to David Beckham's, James Ward-Prowse has become indispensable for Southampton.

Since joining Saints as an eight-year-old, Ward-Prowse has shown a loyalty to the club rarely seen in the modern game.

Even when linked to the league's heavy-hitters, Ward-Prowse has remained true to his boyhood club where he has been an ever-present for the past two seasons.

His dependability - and dead-ball prowess- have now transferred to the international scene. Originally named in Southgate's 33-man squad for Euro 2020, Ward-Prowse just missed out when the final 26 were announced.

If you're an admirer of stunning free-kicks you're in the right place, as Planet Sport takes a look at the Portsmouth-born midfielder's most iconic moments.

Captaining his boyhood club

Aged eight, Ward-Prowse joined Southampton's academy, rising through the ranks to become a full-time scholar in 2011.

His emergence added him to a stellar list of Southampton graduates, including Alan Shearer, Gareth Bale and Matt Le Tissier.

After featuring in every match and impressing for the Under-18 set-up, Ward-Prowse was called up to the senior team where he made his debut against Crystal Palace at the tender age of 16.

Ward-Prowse's development didn't slow even after Southampton's return to the Premier League. In fact, quite the opposite, the young midfielder caught the eye of fans and pundits alike.

Despite interest from other Premier League clubs, Ward-Prowse committed his future to Southampton, signing a five-year deal during the 2012/13 season.

Ward-Prowse's impressive form continued in the following seasons under manager Mauricio Pochettino, and in 2015 he became Southampton's fourth-youngest player to reach 100 appearances.

The dynamic midfielder has grown into a prominent figure at Southampton and, after fellow midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojberg expressed his desire to leave for Tottenham, Ward-Prowse was handed the club captaincy.

Gaining the captain's armband was the latest chapter in Ward-Prowse's Saints fairy-tale. And, after he extended his contract once again in 2020, there are still many more to be written.

Playing every minute in consecutive seasons

Ward-Prowse's path to first-team soccer has been nothing short of spectacular but perhaps even more impressive is his consistency at the highest level.

Since becoming a regular starter in the 2013/14 season, he can boast van exceptional injury record, with his only major setback being a fractured foot in 2014.

Since recovering from the injury, Ward-Prowse has proved that a relentless work-rate doesn't have to go hand in hand with spells on the sidelines.

In the 2019/20 season, Ward-Prowse managed to play every minute of Southampton's league campaign, making him one of only seven outfield players to do so that season, alongside the likes of Harry Maguire, Declan Rice and Virgil van Dijk.

But as if we weren't already impressed, Ward-Prowse managed to repeat the feat again this season, despite the packed schedule and lack of pre-season training.

Following his 90 minutes against West Ham on the final day, the Southampton skipper became the first player to feature in every minute of consecutive Premier League campaigns.

England call-up

Ward-Prowse's rise at Southampton also caught the eye of the England coaches and he has played for his country at every level from under-17 through to the senior squad.

His first international experience came when he was called up to the under-17 squad in 2010. After making seven appearances, he progressed through the under-19s to the under-20 team.

In 2013, Ward-Prowse was called up for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and was part of the side that exited in the group stage after failing to beat Egypt, Chile or Iraq.

Despite a disappointing introduction to tournament soccer, Ward-Prowse was called up to the under-21 side by Gareth Southgate. It was here he first showed his ability on the big stage, scoring the 'goal of the tournament' in the 2014 Toulon Tournament against Brazil - and yes, it was a free-kick.

Ward-Prowse's senior debut came in 2017 in a 1-0 friendly loss against Germany. His international career then stalled before he returned to the fray in 2019 for the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

His first goal, surprisingly not a set-piece, came under Southgate's tutelage in England's 5-0 dismantling of San Marino in March 2021.

Ward-Prowse's international career has gone hand in hand with Southgate's and it was no surprise when he was named in England's 33-man provisional squad for Euro 2020. However, he just failed to make the cut, being dropped from the 26-man squad when it was announced on June 1, 2021.

League Cup loser

After Southampton's remarkable success in the 2015/16 season rewarded them with Europa League qualification, Ronald Koeman's side was inching closer to silverware.

Their European status in the 2016/17 season meant that Southampton's League Cup campaign started in the third round, where they drew Crystal Palace.

After beating Crystal Palace 2-0, Southampton went on to beat both Sunderland and Arsenal, before drawing Liverpool in the two-legged semi final.

Southampton won both legs 1-0, thanks to goals from Nathan Redmond and Shane Long, to set up a final against Jose Mourinho's Manchester United.

Ward-Prowse lined up on the right wing but it was new signing Manolo Gabbiadini that stole the show for the Saints. The Italian striker scored early but had his strike incorrectly chalked off for offside.

Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard handed United a 2-0 lead, but Gabbiadini halved the deficit just before half-time after converting Ward-Prowse's cross.

Gabbiadini then doubled his tally to draw the Saints level and they almost took the lead when Ward-Prowse's corner met Oriol Romeu in the box, but his header bounced back off the post.

Ibrahimovic's 87th-minute header broke Southampton hearts and left Ward-Prowse with a runners-up medal, his only Southampton silverware to date.

Set-piece masterclass vs Villa

It's well known by now that Ward-Prowse has a mean free-kick in him. In fact he holds the Premier League's record for the best free-kick conversion rate since Opta started recording in 2003.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola even praised Ward-Prowse as the "best free-kick taker he has ever seen", and it's fair to say he's got a few good players to pick from.

But while Ward-Prowse has always shone from dead-ball situations, his first-half display against Aston Villa on November 1, 2020, stands out from the rest.

In an extraordinary game at Villa Park, Ward-Prowse's set-piece delivery proved too good to handle for Villa's defence.

Ward-Prowse scored two fantastic free-kicks in the first-half, and provided an assist for Jannik Vestergaard to give his side a 3-0 lead heading into the break.

Danny Ings added to the Saints' lead in the second-half, before English trio Tyrone Mings, Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish all capitalised on Southampton's complacency to end the game at 4-3.

Despite Villa's late goals slightly dampening the result, Ward-Prowse's masterclass remained the hot topic of conversation, and strengthened his claim to an England call-up.

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