David Moyes believes Southampton have proven that the lower leagues are still a valuable source of potential Premier League talent.
No stranger to plucking players from the lower leagues himself, Moyes admits they are an intriguing hunting ground, with the likes of former Blues duo Tim Cahill and Joleon Lescott making the step up with ease in recent years.
The Saints themselves have been rewarded in giving the likes of Rickie Lambert, Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez a chance in the top flight.
Frontman Lambert, who was always a prolific goalscorer in Leagues One and Two, had to wait until helping Southampton to promotion from the Championship before having a crack at the Premier League.
But with 10 top flight goals to his name already, he has shown he can flourish, and Moyes believes there are many others who could make a similar impact to the former Bristol Rovers frontman.
“Like a lot of the Southampton players who have moved up through the leagues, he's done very well,” admitted the Toffees boss.
“Some of them have gone the distance with them, some of them have joined in as they've gone along. I think they've tended to keep the soul of the club and I think Rickie Lambert's been a great goalscorer through his career and continues to be so now.”
He has been pleased to see players like Lambert proving that the lower leagues can still produce top flight talent.
“It's very encouraging,” he added. “I think it's something we have to try and embrace because if not we're going to be going abroad trying to buy all the players.
“It would be great if we were still able to go and buy players [from other leagues]. We went and we got people like Tim, Joleon, Andrew Johnson and people like that from the lower leagues in England.
“Lower leagues may not be the right words because at times some of them had played in the Premier League but I think people get the message that we have tried to pick up players from a little bit lower down if we can.”