Sir Clive Woodward has told The Sun that the "potential greatness" in Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott was obvious from their time in the youth ranks at Southampton.
Woodward, who coached England's rugby union side to World Cup glory in 2003, worked at Southampton in 2005 and 2006, initially as performance director and then as director of football.
Speaking ahead of Arsenal's game at Tottenham this weekend, Woodward said: "Whatever the sport, you can see potential greatness in individuals even when they are just kids. Gareth and Theo were just that, kids, when I was at St Mary's but their quality was evident even then as 16-year-olds.
"Gareth was a flying left-back, Theo a striker or winger. They both had obvious talent and were very exciting to watch, and it helped them greatly to be part of a tremendous academy side. If you look at that squad, you'll find players the vast majority of whom are in the Premier League or Championship today."
During his time at the club, he oversaw a highly talented group of young players that also included the likes of Nathan Dyer, Leon Best and Andrew Surman.
Woodward, whose role was largely administrative, insists the credit for that crop "belongs to others" and added: "Gareth and Theo were the youngest, and you just sensed they were going to hit the heights.
"Right now, they are coveted stars, but people tend to forget the clubs who find, hone and develop such talents. There are people at Southampton, or who were at Southampton when they were developing, who will feel tremendous pride when Gareth and Theo are in action this weekend."