Defender Stephens joined Southampton as a 17-year-old having broken into the first team at Plymouth Argyle.
The Cornwall youngster made his professional debut for Argyle at the age of 16, coming on as a substitute in a League 1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on 18th September 2010.
His first start would come in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game against Cheltenham Town the following month, and he kept his place for the Pilgrims’ next game. In total, he made six appearances for Plymouth before moving to St Mary’s in April 2011 having turned 17 just over two months earlier.
Stephens was a regular for Saints’ Under-18s in 2011/12 as they finished second in the Premier Academy League Group A having been narrowly pipped to first by eventual champions Fulham.
The youngster was also included in the First Team squad for an FA Cup third-round game at Coventry in January 2012, making his debut as an 89th-minute substitute in a 2-1 win at the Ricoh Arena. He turned 18 on 27th January, and was then named as an unused replacement during a fourth-round tie against Millwall the following day. He also made the bench for the subsequent replay against the Lions.
International recognition would follow in March, when Jack was called into the England Under-18 squad for the first time. He played the first half as the Young Lions ran out three-nil winners at Gresty Road in Crewe.
Following Southampton’s promotion to the Barclays Premier League, Stephens was one of four youngsters to be promoted into the First Team ahead of the 2012-13 season. Jack – along with James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers – joined up with the senior squad for their pre-season preparations, which began with the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup. Stephens was named in a 24-man Saints squad for the three-team tournament, playing in our penalty victory over eventual cup-winners Arsenal.
The four youngsters then accompanied the First Team in travelling overseas for a pre-season training camp in the French resort of Évian-les-Bains. Stephens appeared as a half-time substitute in a 4-1 win over Swiss side Étoile Carouge, with Saints having trailed by a goal to nil at the break. He then played the opening half of a narrow victory over French Ligue 1 side Évian TG, before playing the first hour of Southampton’s 2-0 win against Wolves at St Mary’s upon the squad’s return to England.
Jack started the competitive season with the Under-21s, playing for the Development Squad in the newly-created Barclays U21 Premier League. He was also named on the bench for the First Team’s Capital One Cup second-round game against Stevenage in August 2012.
Further international honours came the following month, when Stephens was called into England’s Under-19 side for the first time. Jack earned his first U19 cap playing alongside Saints teammate Chambers in European Championship qualifiers against Estonia, the Faroe Islands and Ukraine in Lithuania. The duo were then joined in the squad by James Ward-Prowse for a friendly win over Finland in Telford last November.
Back on the domestic front, Stephens was a virtual ever-present as our Under-21s progressed through to the Elite Group stage of the U21 Premier League. He was handed the captaincy midway through the season, and has led the team admirably as they push for a top-three finish and qualification for the knockout phase to determine the competition’s overall champion.
He spent the whole 2014/15 season on loan with League 1 side Swindon – joined by Saints Academy graduate Jordan Turnbull – following his short loan deal with the Robins at the end of the 2013/14 campaign. The defender was a key player for Mark Cooper’s side, making 37 appearances and helping them reach the play-off final at Wembley, where they lost 4-0 to Preston North End.
Stephens, along with Saints teammate, went on to represent England Under-20s at the 2015 Toulon Tournament, where the Young Lions finished in fourth place.