​Southampton have confirmed that former academy chief Matt Crocker has returned to the club as their new Director of Football Operations.

Crocker spent seven years at the club before moving to the Football Association in 2013, helping to establish the club's prestigious Category One academy system that produced the likes of Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Gareth Bale

He will return to the club early next year to take over as Southampton's Director of Football Operations - overseeing the development of every aspect of football operations and the departments that support their teams.

In a statement, CEO Martin Semmens said: "The Southampton Way is at the very core of everything we do here at the club, with a strong focus on our player pathway into the first team. 

"For our club to be successful going into the next decade, within an increasingly competitive Premier League, we must seek to strengthen our pathway and further develop every detail of our football operation.

"Matt was the outstanding candidate in Europe for this role, head and shoulders above anyone else, as he brings deep experience and knowledge to the club, but also a history with The Southampton Way.

"We are convinced this appointment will lead to greater success on the pitch in the future, and will help bring back the true ‘Southampton Way’ with a fresh and innovative leader in charge of our football operations."

Prior to rejoining Southampton, Crocker worked as the head of development teams with the FA, making him responsible for elite player and coach pathways across all their squads.

He was also involved in creating the England DNA project - an initiative designed to increase the national team's chances of success at every level.

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