July 29, 2010

A Spurs youth round-up: Sherwood, The Milk Cup, Eurofoot and Bostock

Tim Sherwood’s growing influence

A Spurs XI, managed by Tim Sherwood, drew 2-2 draw with Leyton Orient last week. I must admit that I didn’t make it to the game – I couldn’t face the four hour round trip on a Wednesday evening, and I felt that £15 was a bit steep for what was essentially a reserve side (fair play to those who made the trip!). By all accounts, it was a fairly drab affair – Orient dominated the first half (and could have scored many more), and Spurs dominated the second. Our goals came through Ryan Mason, and Jon Obika.

Tim Sherwood gave a very useful interview after the game: Spurs starlets need time to mature, says Sherwood

“For us it’s a case of getting experience and stepping up to see who can maybe go on loan to someone,” said Sherwood. “We haven’t got a team ethic in this group, it’s all about producing players for our first team and managing their careers from here on in.

He (Obika) is scoring goals, he just needs to find a home. We need to get him a good home to go to and get him some experience, but rest assured wherever he goes he will score goals, because that’s what the boy is all about.

Ryan [Mason] had a good experience at Yeovil, he did well for them and they did well for him. He’s looking to step up now. He’s technically gifted, he keeps the ball, he hates giving it away.

He’s getting fitter and a little bit stronger as well which is good news and I think he’s ready to step up to the Championship and maybe go on loan there to get a career before eventually, hopefully his Tottenham career.”

It’s good experience for them to know that if they’re going to go out on loan at this level it’s very physical.

That’s the way it is in England: if you’re outside the Premier League you’ve got to be ready for a battle. It’s good experience, when we come and look at them on loan we don’t judge what they’ve done on the pitch, we look at their attitude, which needs to be spot on, and their ability will come through.

It gets them used to the intensity of the dressing room. Some of these boys at Orient are playing for their livelihood, they’ve got mortgages to pay, so it’s good for some of these boys who think they’re going to be Tottenham players on big contracts to get a bit of an eye opener.”

Really positive comments from Sherwood – and pretty much exactly what I’d want to hear from him. I hadn’t previously held particularly strong views either way on him – on one hand, he was a big advocate of Didier Zokora, a cult hero to many, but certainly not to me. But on the other, I’ve noted his attendance (and his encouragement to the players) at the handful of U18 games I’ve been at since he joined the club – even when he was only part-time; this I found impressive.

He is spot on regarding Obika, who many Spurs fans seem to have written off. Indeed, I don’t think he is the greatest player (he was warming Millwall’s bench at the end of last season), but he is a player who can become a Darren Bent-style goalscorer in my opinion. He is also a very humble guy, with an excellent attitude towards the game.

Sherwood also calls it right on Mason – “He’s technically gifted, he keeps the ball, he hates giving it away” – that just about sums him up. I’d like to think that Mason has a future at Spurs, especially with Modric to learn from. He could become a Modric-type player, although he has shown in his U18 days that he also has the ability to score goals, so he will probably end up playing further up the pitch than Luka.

I would imagine that Sherwood will look to organise fairly regular friendly games for his group of professionals in the coming season, as well as keeping a close eye on the U18s – working as a link between John McDermott, the Academy Manager, and Harry Redknapp. One wonders where this leaves Clive Allen.

The Milk Cup

A Spurs U17 side participated in the well-known Milk Cup over in Northern Ireland last week. Our squad was as follows:

1 Reece Samuels
2 Kevin Stewart
3 Daniel Day
4 Ronnie Hawkins
5 James Yeboah
6 Ramil Sheriff
7 Laste Dombaxe
8 Freddy Champion
9 Alasan Ann
10 Lee Angol
11 Kenneth McEvoy
12 Luke McGee
13 Thomas Gardiner
14 Janoi Donacien
15 Samuel Smith
16 Victor Zapata Caicedo
17 Oliver Modeste
18 Alexander McQueen [I think they must mean Darren McQueen, who made his U18 debut aged 14]

A handful of these players had some U18 experience last year – McQueen, Yeboah and Dombaxe may be names that you’ve heard before.

We played in the Premier Section, which meant that we played County Londonderry first (26/07/10). We won this game 4-0, with Ronnie Hawkins, James Yeboah, Laste Dombaxe and Lee Angol getting the goals. The goals can be viewed here at 5:26 (although I’m not sure for how long); good to see Redknapp there watching. Number 4, Ronnie Hawkins, looks very comfortable on the ball, and seems to take set pieces too. According to some excellent eye witness reports from wlhatwhl on the brilliant COYS forum, Laste Dombaxe was the stand-out player for Spurs.

In our second game, we beat KV Mechelen of Belgium 1-0 with Dombaxe scoring a penalty, having been fouled himself. The full team team was Thomas Gardiner; Ramil Sheriff, James Yeboah, Janoi Donacien, Daniel Day; Laste Dombaxe, Kevin Stewart, Ronnie Hawkins, Freddy Champion, Lee Angol; Victor Zapata Caicedo.

We then met Donegal Schools in the Quarter Final. Having been 1-0 down for most of the game, Laste Dombaxe scored an excellent equaliser with two minutes to go, only for Donegal to score a screamer from distance a minute later. You can watch the goals here (this time they are first up in the video).

We went on to play Porto in the 5th-8th play-off, drawing 0-0 (unusual scoreline for a youth game!), unfortunately losing 5-4 on penalties. In our final match, we played Belevedere of Dublin, winning 5-0 and therefore finishing 7th out of the 24 teams.

Northern Ireland Milk Cup Winners – Etoile Lusitana (from Senegal – first African team to win the Milk Cup)
Runners up – Bolton Wanderers
3rd – Desportivo Brasil
4thDonegal 93
5th – Aspire
6thFC Porto
7thTottenham Hotspur
8thBelvedere

Eurofoot

As well as the Milk Cup, we have taken an U18 team to participate in the Eurofoot competition (as we do each year). We have been drawn in Group B.

Group A

Celtic
Club Brugge
AA Gent
E. Frankfurt
STVV
Botafogo

Group B

Anderlecht
Brondby
Cercle Brugge
Tottenham
Standard Luik
NAC Breda

The squad list for this one is as follows – some familiar names, and some less so.

1 Archer Jordan 12/04/1993
2 Dukes George 4/03/1993 [who I believe is either on trial, or has signed from Northampton Town]
3 Byrne Nathan 5/06/1992
4 Nicholson Jake 19/07/1992
5 Ekong William 1/09/1993
6 Lancaster Cameron 5/11/1992
7 Luongo Massimo 25/09/1992 [who was on trial with us last year, and could now have signed permanently from Sydney Tigers]
8 Carroll Tom 28/05/1992
9 Coulthirst Shaquille 2/11/1994
10 Kane Harry 28/07/1993
11 Prtichard Alex 3/05/1993
12 Oyenuga Kudus 18/03/1993
13 Ranieri Mirko 8/02/1992
14 Durojaiye Olumide 20/10/1992
15 Ward Grant 5/12/1994
16 Munns Jack 18/11/1993
17 Tapping Calum 5/06/1993
22 Francis-Angol Zaine 30/06/1993

In our opening game on Friday morning, we won 3-2 against Cercle Brugge. Kane, Oyenuga and Lancaster got the goals, and Kane popped up again in the afternoon, as we beat NAC 1-0.

Today we play Anderlecht, Standard and Brondby -you can keep up to date with the results here.

And finally… Billy Big Bostocks

John Bostock had plenty to say this week; some of it sensible, and some total nonsense in my opinion. Firstly, his comments on grass roots football in this country, which I think are sensible, intelligent and which many others would agree with:

“It [England U19 vs Spain] was the hardest game I’ve played, energy-wise. It felt like we were chasing shadows at times.

They have probably been brought up playing that way. They played like they were brothers on that pitch.

I’ve had some good coaches in my time but the problem with English football is it’s not consistent. Different coaches have different approaches.

In Spain it seems every youngster is coached the same way. It’s almost like it’s a belief. Individually we’re not that far behind them but as teams, we are.

Something has to change with the coaching. I’m not talking about the professional game, but right at the bottom from the age of six, seven because kids need to know how to play together.

Look at the senior England team. Individually, we have the best players in the world but as soon as they come together it’s not the same.

I think most of our youth coaches have taken the joy out of football. That is kicked out of us at a young age. Too much pressure is put on kids to go out and win games.”

I can’t disagree with Bostock on a lot of this – I do think there is a massive problem with grass roots football, and I personally get frustrated when I walk past the Sunday morning games, and see young kids playing 11-a-side on full-size pitches. How can that be helping their football? Other than fitness, it gives them very little. But really, that’s a discussion for another day.

Instead I’d like to focus on Bostock’s comments about how he has been blocked by foreign players:

“You look at the foreign contingent over here and they’re blocking us.

It’s so frustrating. You want to prove yourself, but it’s hard when you don’t get a chance.

Some players have been given chances – for instance, Jack Rodwell was given his at Everton and he took it. But the rest of us haven’t really been given that chance. Getting bits here and there is not really enough.

None of us know much about the new rule [8 home-grown players in a 25-man squad]. I just know clubs now have to put some of us in the squad.

But clubs are spending millions on foreigners and they still want to play them. It just means we will be sitting on the bench.”

Ignore all the lifestyle stuff that comes with being a footballer, all we want to do is play football.

That’s all any of us have ever wanted to do since we were young. We just want that chance to show we can play and hopefully we will get it.

I just want to play. The dream is to play for Tottenham but I want to play and if I have to go out on loan to prove myself then I will.”

And here’s what he should be saying:

“You can’t help but learn from quality players like Modric and Kranjcar. I stay behind with them a couple of times a week to try to improve as a player.

This season I’ll be working hard in training to catch Harry’s eye, and to try to get into the squad – then, who knows what can happen.”

Firstly, it’s a slightly bizarre comment, since Spurs have a lot of English players, and specifically in midfield, which is where he wants to play. Does he really think that if it weren’t for that pesky journeyman Modric, he would be a regular starter?

Secondly, can he really compare himself to Jack Rodwell? In my opinion, Jack Rodwell will be an England player within the next 18 months, and will probably be a mainstay for our national side for years to come.

I’m not a expert on John Bostock, but I think I’ve seen him enough times for Crystal Palace, Tottenham U18s and England (at all levels) enough to pass comment. I personally think that his biggest problem is that he believes his own hype. He hasn’t particularly impressed for the U18s, he hasn’t particularly impressed on loan at Brentford (although he put in a fine display and got two goals in his first game for them), and he hasn’t particularly impressed for England.

He is a skillful player, no doubt. He is also a big, strong lad. However, we all know that there is far more to being a footballer than this, which is something that John McDermott, the Academy Manager at Spurs is always keen to make clear. Take Sam Cox for example. He has now joined Barnet, but he was kept on at Spurs for longer than perhaps his skill level alone justified. This was because he brought a lot of other qualities – professionalism, a superb work ethic, a positivity in his place and in his communication to is team mates, and the ability to help set the tempo of a match. In my opinion, Bostock is desperately lacking in these areas.

Having his level of skill is all well and good, but you have to know how to use it. In this article, it seems to me that he is keen to blame others for his own failings, rather than getting his head and bettering himself. I find it disappointing, and I would not be at all surprised for him to slope off to another club at some point in the near future. If that were to happen there would be some Spurs fans, no doubt, who would blame the coaches for not getting the best out of such a prodigious talent. However, if you see this guy play – see how he is often on the periphery of matches, see how he doesn’t seem to want to roll his sleeves up, and see how he isn’t really fussed with the defensive aspects of the game – you really have to question why he thinks he deserves a chance over other players of a similar age. Particularly those who keep their mouths shut, and focus on their game.

A reminder that you can find me on Twitter: @WindyCOYS

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July 25, 2010

Overview of a good article on youth development, plus my thoughts on Ryan Mason vs New York Red Bulls

There was an interesting article about youth development in ‘Sky Sports Magazine’ (included in yesterday’s Times).

Some snippets:

  • Huw Jennings, head of Fulham’s Academy and former Head of Development at the Premier League, has pointed out that young players in Europe tend to make their first team debuts aged between 21 and 22, when they are physically mature. In England, players debut at an average age of 18 years and four months, and are often judged critically.
  • “Is there a need for much more competitive reserve team football?” asks Gordon Taylor. “You have lads on the bench who don’t get used and then when they are, they’re not match fit.”
  • “I [Taylor] had a long chat with Rafa Benitez soon after Liverpool won the FA Youth Cup. We talked about why these youngsters, who were the best team in the country for their age, were not getting first team opportunities. He said that you need a manager who’s strong in his tenure because it’s almost like taking orchids out of the greenhouse – you take them out then you put them back in for a while before you bring them back out again. You can’t thrust youngsters into a first team, particularly when you’ve got top class foreign internationals. Managers have short reigns and may not risk blooding young talent.”
  • As John McDermott, academy head at Spurs, said last year: “You once had to be among the best players in Britain to make it here. Now you have to be among the best in the world.”

The article also includes a list of “How many current pros started out at your team?”. Spurs are third with 50. United have 63, and Arsenal 52. It’s about quality not quantity though, I guess.

If anyone is interested in where McDermott’s quote came from, it’s here: Football academies: kicking and screaming by Sally Williams of the Telegraph. It’s over a year old, but some may find this interesting:


‘Opportunities [at the top level] are very tight,’ agrees John McDermott, the academy head at Tottenham. ‘Boys have to realise the path is not what it was 10 years ago.’ You once had to be among the best players in Britain, now you have to be among the best in the world to make it here. Three of the 23 scholars at Tottenham are European (a Swede, an Italian and a Belgian).

At age 16 the 90-minute rule goes out of the window and clubs start to bring in boys and their families from all over the world. ‘It must be hugely frustrating for kids at English clubs to be told they’re not good enough at 16 because of the number of overseas youngsters filling academies,’ commented Trevor Brooking, the Football Association’s director of football development, in a recent attack on youth football. ‘When we set up the academy system, I don’t think anyone envisaged it would be filled with anything other than Brits.’

McDermott, a former FA national coach, takes a Darwinist line. ‘My belief is that talent will get you through. Cream will rise to the top.’ But not necessarily the very top. ‘If God has given you the ability to play in the second division and you achieve that, then that is a success. (Jim White told me that non-league football, which used to be filled with butchers, bakers and lorry drivers, is now full of kids who have gone through the academy system, but haven’t quite made it.) Plus, McDermott urges, give academies a chance. They’re only 10 years old. It’s only now and over the next year or two that you will see the real worth of the system, and he has several players who are ‘very interesting’.

He is keen for me to meet one of them, Ryan Mason, 17, a Tottenham scholar who is tipped to be a potent force. I find this hard to believe because the figure who emerges is unequivocally unathletic: pale, nervous, gangly, shuffling into the meeting room at the academy HQ at Spurs Lodge, Chigwell, with none of that high-testosterone swagger of pro footballers. ‘Physically he is very underdeveloped,’ admits Allen, who remembers him being so scrawny at 12 that he couldn’t even kick the ball across the pitch. But this doesn’t matter – everyone agrees he is brilliant and scores loads of goals and in fact recently played with the first team in the Uefa Cup game against Dinamo Zagreb.

Everyone is looking to Mason as evidence that the academy system works. He joined Tottenham’s academy soon after it launched in 1998, when he was seven. His father, a BT engineer, got him playing aged six for a Sunday league team near his home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. Mason says he’s thrilled to be here. It’s fun, but also very hard. ‘I’ve seen around 100 boys released,’ he says. One was a good friend. ‘We’d been close for about six years, our families too. My dad would drive us [to training] on a Monday and his dad would do Wednesday, and then he got released.’ He shrugs. ‘But that’s football isn’t it? Technically he was fine, but mentally he wasn’t there. He would go out with his mates,’ he explains in a tone that says, ‘Need I say more?’

So what has Mason got that the others haven’t? Mono vision, says McDermott, who believes talent alone will take you to the age of 16, no further. ‘He’s incredibly dedicated, verging on obsessed.’ When Mason’s not playing football, he’s thinking about it or watching it and spent last night analysing the Arsenal game on Sky – he has a TV in his bedroom. Everything in his life is football and he never loses focus. He may be 17 and have left home – he lodges with a landlady – but he looks at me as if I’m deranged when I ask if he ever goes to clubs or gigs. ‘Nah! Nothing like that! I don’t do anything [that’s not related to football]. I’m pretty boring to be honest.’ So, what will he do with his four GCSEs should it not work out? ‘I’ve not thought about that,’ he replies. ‘I’d rather not.’

And while I’m on the subject of Ryan Mason, I was encouraged by his cameo against New York Red Bulls – he only had a few touches of the ball, but he caught my eye, so I thought I’d look closely at his moments on the ball.

- Frustrating moment for him just after he’d come on – he made a clever run in behind the full-back, Taarabt just needed to slide him in for a one-on-one, but Taarabt waited too long and lost the ball – see below.

- He filled in intelligently at left back and helped defend a chance (and cleared the ball up the line – the only time he surrendered possession).

- He won the ball back in our half, before receiving it back, and keeping it well.

- He received it on half-way and kept possession (pass to Rose, before Taarabt lost it).

- He received the ball in our half, and kept possession when nothing else was on (pass to Bale).

- He intelligently intercepted in the NY half, fed Taarabt, who passed to Keane. Mason ran off Keane and could have been one-on-one, but Keane wasn’t aware of his movement, and the move eventually broke down after an over-hit Jenas pass – see below.

- He received the ball from Bale in our half, looked around, played back inside to Rose as nothing else was on.

- He received the ball from Rose deep in NY half, tried to look for a one-two with Bale (played a short angled pass, first time), but didn’t get it back.

It’s only pre-season, and he came on against tired legs, so no point making snap judgements, but his defensive awareness impressed me – that’s something that has developed on loan at Yeovil IMO.
The other thing I would say is that, although he didn’t see much of the ball, he didn’t lose it once (aside from a clearance). Interesting to compare that with Taarabt, who played (plays) a constantly (and often unnecessarily) high-risk game, and lost the ball more often than not.

I’d like to see him get more game-time this evening, perhaps starting up front with Obika, as they have an understanding.

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July 17, 2010

Pre-season – introducing some unfamiliar names


Pre-season is well underway, and the fixtures began last Saturday at Bournemouth, where two separate Spurs teams (one in each half) combined to win 4-0 at Dean Court.

The squad (minus World Cup participants) has now headed to the United States for a series of friendlies, beginning tonight at San Jose Earthquakes (9pm on ESPN).

According to reputable sources, our “US Tour Roster” is as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Carlo Cudicini (ITA), David Button, Oscar Jansson (SWE)
DEFENDERS: Gareth Bale (WAL), Calum Butcher, Vedran Corluka (CRO), Alan Hutton (SCT), Younes Kaboul (FRA), Kyle Naughton, Adam Smith, Kyle Walker
MIDFIELDERS: Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Niko Kranjcar (CRO), Luka Modric (CRO), Andros Townsend
FORWARDS: Robbie Keane (IRE), Ryan Mason, Jonathan Obika, Roman Pavlyuchenko (RUS)

Plenty of names there that will be unfamiliar to many, so I thought it a good time to give a brief overview of the young faces that you will see cropping up during our pre-season friendlies.

Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that Dean Parrett, John Bostock and Steven Caulker are away with England U19, where Andros Townsend was also meant to be. Townsend was withdrawn at the last minute due to David Bentley’s ankle ligament injury, and should now find himself getting plenty of game time on the tour.

David Button (21)
Button, who has represented England at U19 and U20 level, had a bit of a breakthrough season in the last campaign, becoming a mainstay in the Shrewsbury Town goal.

Paul Simpson, their coach, had only good things to say after his loan spell:

“I think Dave’s a hell of a good goalkeeper,” he said. “He’s a good size, he’s a real presence in the 18 yard box and he’s an excellent kicker which is a big part of a keeper’s game now.

He’s been much more positive over the last month or two as Dave Timmins has been drumming into him the need to get on the front foot, and we’re seeing the benefit of that.

Whether or not he’s going to get in at Tottenham over the next year or two, I don’t really know, but he’s got a great chance from what I’ve seen.

He’s done himself no harm at all coming here and he’s had a run of games which has done him the world of good.

He’s grown in confidence and I would imagine there will be clubs at a higher level who will want to take him next year.”

Ben Alnwick’s failure to impress could mean that Button is third choice this year, and he may get a chance to shine both on this tour, and in the early rounds of the League Cup.

Oscar Jansson (19)
Jansson spent some time on loan at Exeter City last year but, having initially started games, he quickly found himself on the bench and then out of the squad entirely, as they frequently didn’t name a second goalkeeper.

He was a substitute for the first-team in the game against Shakhtar Donetsk in February of last year, and has also appeared in previous pre-season campaigns. He is a pro-active and vocal keeper although, with David Button having had such a strong season last year, he will almost certainly be out on loan in the coming season.

Calum Butcher (19)
Having forged a very solid partnership alongside Steven Caulker for the U18s, Butcher has found himself a little out of the limelight and, whilst his former centre-back partner has excelled at Yeovil Town, Calum struggled for games at Barnet, and ended up back in the U18s (as an “over-age” player). It could be argued that he suffered from the withdrawal of the reserve team, as he didn’t get regular football. That said, the club clearly still think that he has something, and I would echo that – I liked what I saw from him in the U18s, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in pre-season.

Adam Smith (19)
Another player that arguably suffered from the dismantling of the reserve team was right-back Adam Smith. Having represented England at virtually every age level, he was one of the stars of the U18 team, and even made the bench for two of our UEFA cup games. He had a loan spell at Torquay United in League Two last year but, having immediately impressed out of position at left-back, he was eventually resigned to the occasional appearance as a substitute as their first-choice players regained fitness.

Smith is a very attack-minded full-back, who has a habit of scoring spectacular goals from distance. He was pushed into the reserves three years ago, and has also impressed in previous first-team friendlies. I think he is another who needs to get some momentum going, and a strong pre-season could be what kick-starts a turn around in his fortunes – he will no doubt be looking for a loan move this year.

Andros Townsend (19)
I wrote about him last year (Spurs recall Andros Townsend… but who is he?) after he was recalled, and I’d highlight again how highly rated he was by MK Dons. I personally think that Townsend is “the one to watch” for the coming season. When I say that, it’s not based purely on talent, but on practical reasons:

  1. Fast, direct wingers can change a game, so are worth a place on the bench as an impact sub.
  2. He has a left foot, a rare commodity it seems.
  3. He seems to have good physical and mental strength – when he was MK Dons, Paul Ince frequently commented about him performing well in an otherwise struggling team.

He has been withdrawn from the England U19s in order to go along on this tour, so should expect to see plenty of action.

Ryan Mason (19)
Mason had a tough season at Yeovil last year, but many think that that is just what he needed. A highly technical, but very slightly-built player, there are concerns that he will struggle with the physical side of the game. He was actually brought back from Yeovil ahead of time and, whilst it wasn’t officially announced, it was strongly rumoured that he had been put on a special programme to help him gain strength.

Mason was prolific for our U18s, mainly playing just off a main striker, but he was generally played wide or in central midfield for Yeovil; he still chipped in with goals, but was not finding the net as regularly. Shortly after leaving us, Darren Bent actually highlighted Mason as one of the best prospects he had seen, so he obviously did well in first-team training sessions, and it will be up to him to prove that he can fit in with the first team squad on this tour. I would like to think that he’ll do well, as he is a player that I admire, and would like to see break through.

Jonathan Obika (19)
Obika didn’t have such a successful year last year, spending time on loan at Millwall, but finding game-time hard to come by. He is a striker who began life as a winger, and scored a hatful of goals playing for our U18s, with Mason playing just off him. They both went on loan to Yeovil Town for the latter half of season 2008/9, where they had some success.

Many have written off Obika but, whilst he is certainly a diamond in the rough, I still think there is something to work with, and I’ll be intrigued to see how he performs on this tour.

At this point, I’d like to highlight a great article by Ben Pearce in the Hampstead and Highgate Express, regarding Steven Caulker: Tottenham teen Caulker catches Redknapp’s eye in Bournemouth.

IT IS rare for teenagers to be caught up in a row between club and country, and Spurs fans could have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about last week as Tottenham and England’s Under-19s bickered over their need for four of the Lilywhites’ youngest stars.

Those who were in Bournemouth on Saturday may have a better idea now.

John Bostock, Dean Parrett, Andros Townsend and Steven Caulker were all on show at Dean Court, and three of them will now fly out to France to spearhead England’s challenge at the European Under-19 Championships.

Spurs were initially loathe to lose their up-and-coming talents from the tour of America and now, after tantalising glimpses on the south coast, Tottenham supporters may understand why.

Townsend will be joining the Lilywhites in the US after Spurs pulled the winger out of the England squad at the 11th hour, following the news that David Bentley will be sidelined for the next three months.

Eighteen-year-old Townsend had the travelling fans on their feet on a few occasions in Bournemouth – not least when he burst out of his own half, scythed through the midfield and saw a low shot cannon back off the post.

However, the quiet confidence of centre-back Caulker was just as impressive and exciting – particularly for those who are tipping him as a potential star for both club and country.

Such claims are, of course, exceedingly premature, particularly after a solid 45 minutes against a League One team in a friendly run-out.

Spurs’ dominance was such that the rearguard was rarely tested, and Carlo Cudicini was only forced into one save on his return to action in the first half.

However, it was hard to ignore the patent potential of Caulker and, after the game, Harry Redknapp singled the 6ft 3ins 18-year-old out for special praise: “The kid we had at the back, Caulker, if he doesn’t make a player there is something wrong,” he said.

All the attributes appear to be there. The giant teenager’s size belies his age and he is also blessed with pace – as a schoolboy in west London he won the 400m borough title four years in a row.

An uncompromising tackle near the halfway line at Dean Court was the highlight of an impressive first half.

But then, no-one should be surprised. Yeovil fans certainly wouldn’t be. Bournemouth will ply their trade in League One next season, and Caulker spent 44 games shutting out League One strikers last season.

He spent the last campaign on loan with Yeovil, a move which he admits came as a surprise as he had only just signed his first professional contract the previous month, in July 2009.

“I was very happy with my progress over the last season,” Caulker told Spurs TV Online. “I wasn’t expecting to do so much and to do so well, but you always look to improve. I think there’s bits of my game that I could improve, but I’ll look to add those to my game in pre-season.

“I wasn’t expecting to go out on loan so early. I was looking at the back end of the season, the last two or three months, so I was pleased to get through it.”

At 17 years old, Caulker found himself in Somerset and, before long, he was a central figure in a nine-month battle against relegation.

The Londoner started 44 of Yeovil’s 46 league games, missing one match because of England Under-19 duty and then returning to Spurs one game early at the end of the campaign – having just secured League One safety with a 3-0 win over Oldham.

Caulker’s importance was officially recognised as he scooped Yeovil’s player of the season award, and he feels that his loan spell in the West Country taught him valuable lessons.

“It was a step up – mainly physically but also mentally. In youth football there’s a certain amount of pressure on you but it’s not the same as playing for your mortage and kids,” he said.

“You need to get into the club’s mentality pretty quickly. It’s not just ‘if you make a mistake, you make a mistake’. Obviously you need to move on from that but you also have to realise the consequences for people who lose their win bonuses and things like that.

“If you don’t stay up then it’s a problem for a lot of the players who will be out of contract. But it’s a nice pressure I think.

“It was quite a young team at Yeovil but we did have some older, more experienced players and they taught me some tricks.

“It definitely helps, they talked me through a lot of it and they definitely helped my game – I started to talk to them a lot more as well.

“You see a lot of the picture at the back and you start to realise the importance of communication. If there’s a man on your team-mate’s shoulder and you don’t tell them and they score, it’s just as much your fault as it is theirs.

“I managed to get the player of the season award, which I really wanted, and when I won that it was a proud moment. I thought that I’d come quite far. I thanked the manager and the players for their support.”

As the new season approaches, Redknapp will continue with his policy of sending his young prospects out on loan, and all the signs suggest that, having conquered League One last season, Caulker will be promoted to the Championship.

The young defender will doubtless be anxious for news of his next adopted club but, for now, he is focused on England Under-19s’ European campaign, which kicks off with a group match against Austria on Sunday night.

“It’s definitely a good experience, seeing other players and playing against them,” Caulker finished.

“There are no misfits. Everyone there is of a high quality and I enjoy it. Again it’s a pressure but a nice pressure, and playing for your country is an honour.

You will find more information on all of the players mentioned in my previous articles.

Follow me on Twitter (@WindyCOYS) for updates during this evening’s game.

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