May 12, 2015

Youth Round-Up

This weekend saw Tottenham Hotspur Under-18s lose their final league game of the season – 3-2 to Aston Villa.

This means that, despite doing well in the group stage of the competition (finishing second in the South Group behind Chelsea, and going into Group 1 for the Final Stage), we will finish seventh or eighth out of eight in the Final Stage. Spurs, like several other sides, have changed their team for the Final Stage. A number of Under-18 players have been promoted to the Under-21 set-up, meaning that gaps have been filled by some Under-16 players. Having said that, the use of Under-16 players has been somewhat restricted by upcoming GCSE exams, meaning that there has been some rotation of players.

Now that the league season is over, the Under-18s will be embarking on two tournaments:

14-17 May, 36th International Terborg Toernooi, Netherlands.
21-25 May, Volksbank Cup – Stemwede, Germany.

The Under-18s have participated in a number of other tournaments throughout the season:

August: Eurofoot, Belgium. We finished fourth, and Tom Glover followed in Luke McGee’s footsteps by being named ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’.
September: Under-18 Champions Cup, held at Hotspur Way in, 2014. Kyle Walker-Peters won ‘Player of the Tournament’.
April: Torneo Internazionale – Bellinzona, Switzerland. We failed to qualify for the knock-out stage after dominating possession but failing to convert chances across all three games.

And, of course, we went out at the semi-final stage of the Youth Cup after a fantastic two-legged match against Chelsea.

 

Ismail Azzaoui and Marcus Edwards have been playing in the UEFA Under-17 Championships in Bulgaria this week, for Belgium and England respectively.

Azzaoui hit the post in a 2-0 defeat to Germany on Wednesday and then scored twice (one pen) for against Czech Republic Under-17s on Saturday afternoon. He played the whole of their 1-0 win over Slovenia on Tuesday to secure their place in the quarter-finals.

Edwards came off the bench to score England’s winning goal in their 1-0 triumph over Italy on Thursday, and then played 62 minutes in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

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On the subject of Spurs youth, I was asked a few questions by Twitter user (and all round nice guy), David Fouser (‏@journeymanhisto) and I thought my answers might be of interest to others.

David: Can you comment on the success of our loan placements this year? For example, Pritchard clearly had a great opportunity, but others have not.

There have been two outstanding loan moves this season, not including Dele Alli’s loan back to MK Dons. Alex Pritchard has stood out in a talented Brentford side under a manager, Mark Warburton, who knew him well and trusted him. Pritchard has been able to play in the centre of a 4-1-4-1, occasionally getting pushed wide on the left. He finished the season with 12 goals and 7 assists from 45 appearances, an impressive achievement. He won the Players’ Player of the Year, and finished as a runner-up in Supporters’ Player (which went to Toumani Diagouraga).

The other outstanding loan move was Grant Ward at Coventry City. Grant went to Chicago Fire as a right-sided midfielder who could also play at full-back. He has returned as a central midfielder, and he played every available minute for Coventry in that role, impressing their fans greatly.

Ryan Fredericks had some high points at Middlesbrough but the last few weeks of the season were blighted by injury. Dominic Ball had his first taste of league football at Cambridge United, where he eventually nailed down a starting role. However, it was at right-back – not really his position. Still, that move has to be seen as somewhat of a success. Likewise, Nathan Oduwa got some playing time at Luton Town, though he might have hoped for more.

Edit: inspired by an excellent point from ‘Mickster’ in the comments on this article, Nathan Oduwa’s recent interview illustrates clearly that it’s not all about playing time.

David: Sherwood arranged our loans before, right? Who’s job is this now – Paul Mitchell?

I believe that this was a part of Sherwood’s role as ‘Technical Co-ordinator’, although his exact role was always a bit of a mystery. I would imagine that this role is shared between various parties, and it must help having Ugo Ehiogu as Under-21 coach – he is someone who will no doubt have a network of contacts built up over a lengthy playing career, and this will help when it comes to arranging loans.

David: Do we know much about Pochettino’s and Mitchell’s history vis-a-vis loans and academy development. If they prefer one over the other?

In four years at Espanyol, Pochettino gave debuts to 23 players from their academy; a remarkable figure. At Southampton he built on that reputation, and the fact that he instantly took a shine to Ryan Mason on arrival with us was no great surprise.

I have no knowledge as to his attitude on loans vs Under-21 development, but we did send a lot of players out in January. That said, two players that have had first-team involvement – Harry Winks and Josh Onomah – did stay ‘in-house’, which could be telling.

David: Who’s the next Harry Kane?

We have some real talent ready to burst onto the scene. Central midfielders Winks and Onomah are close to the first-team now, and Kyle Walker-Peters is a fantastic talent at right-back. Cameron Carter-Vickers has been called up to the United States Under-20 squad recently – he is the youngest player in the squad at 17. There are three or four others who could easily become first team squad regulars, not least Milos Veljkovic, who I saw as on a par with Nabil Bentaleb when they were playing together in the Under-21s.

Predicting who will be the next Kane is tough, but I can see Veljkovic making a positive impact next season, if trusted. He can play in defensive midfield or at centre-back. He was sent out on loan to Charlton Athletic in January – personally I was hoping that he would stay with us and see some playing time as a defensive midfielder.

Thanks for the questions, David, I hope that’s been of interest!

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  • Mickster says:

    I think there is a bit of a mis-understanding about the loan system. Whilst it’s obviously great for young players to go away and be a roaring success. It’s almost has as much value for them to go away from the relative safety of u18 and U21 football and get an understanding of the real world. Nathan in particular has today spoken about the learning curve and whilst he has what I think is huge talent going away and learning, some of the nastier and harder parts of the game is important for him Although he didn’t shine that is almost irrelevant as long he learns from the experience. In fact in some ways the fact that he didn’t burn up League 2 as he has done regularly at U18 level in particular, ought to focus his mind on his development.

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