February 20, 2016

20/02/16 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 4-0 Arsenal U18s, Hotspur Way

Alfie Whiteman (17)
Shilow Tracey (17) Christian Maghoma (18) (c) Japhet Tanganga (17) Jaden Brown (17)
Charlie Owens (18) Zenon Stylianides (18)
Marcus Edwards (17) Dylan Duncan (17) Sam Shashoua (16)
Kazaiah Sterling (17)

Subs:
Keanan Bennetts (16) for Shashoua, 78.
Ryan Loft (17) for Sterling, 78.
George Marsh (17) for Stylianides, 84.

Sub not used:
Brandon Austin (17)
Aremide Oteh (17)
Jack Roles (16)

When I saw last night that rain was forecast for the whole of this match, I had second thoughts — did I want to make a 70-mile round trip to be stood in the rain for two hours? Thankfully another look this morning gave a more optimistic outlook, and I turned up for what was a phenomenal performance from Spurs’ youngsters. I was joined by Dan Kilpatrick of the Tottenham Way podcast, as podcasts collided! Listen out for Dan on my youth update for The Fighting Cock this week.

The team was a strong one, and the only surprise was that Shilow Tracey — an attacking midfielder who recently signed from Ebbsfleet United — was playing at right-back. I am not sure whether Joe Muscatt (who has played at right-back recently) was injured, but he was not included amongst the substitutes.

Arsenal made a fast start to the match, imposing themselves physically on a smaller Spurs side, and forcing a succession of early corners, the first coming when Jordi Osei-Tutu ran past Sam Shashoua and forced Jaden Brown to come across to see it out. Arsenal immediately won a corner on the opposite side, which Christian Maghoma headed clear.

Tall Arsenal midfielder Ben Sheaf got into a good area in the left corner of the box and it was Stylianides this time who saw him out. Japhet Tanganga rose to clear the subsequent corner, before Arsenal put together a spell of possession on the edge of the box, but had too many touches, and eventually forced themselves to go back to Sheaf, who had his shot saved by Alfie Whiteman.

Captain Maghoma was organising makeshift right-back Tracey well, calling him across when he was too wide.

Arsenal’s Donyell Malen got one-on-one with Brown, but slashed at the ball and put his shot well wide.

Kaylen Hinds’ shot from the edge of the box took a deflection and the corner, taken by the tall midfielder Josh Da Silva, was headed behind for another by Brown. The next one was taken by Sheaf, and a challenge by Kazaiah Sterling was required on the edge of the box to stop a free header.

Shilow Tracey then made a terrific challenge to stop the rampaging Sheaf again, and the resultant Arsenal corner came to nothing as it was looped in too deep.

Tanganga made a crucial intervention at the near post, before Spurs got out of their own half. Sterling went on a fantastic mazy run and got his head up to find Sam Shashoua. Osei-Tutut forced Shashoua back and the move petered out, but it was a sign that Spurs could do damage on the break.

John McDermott tends to stand slightly away from the dug-out — presumably to allow Under-18 Head Coach Kieran McKenna to have the match-day authority — and McDermott was joined today by Nigel Gibbs (Assistant Head of Coach & Player Development), who was pretty vocal throughout. At this point in the match McDermott called for more aggression from our team.

Spurs began to get a foothold in the game, and Shashoua had a good strike from the edge of the box after some nice hold-up play from Dylan Duncan. Charlie Owens played a good pass to Marcus Edwards, who went back to Zenon Stylianides, but the midfielder passed the ball straight out of play. Stylianides was then caught in possession after good work from Duncan.

Sterling chased down the keeper and went to ground to block his kick, but the ball rebounded to safety.

Arsenal put together a slick piece of play to get Hinds in behind, but Jaden Brown had tracked him from across the penalty box and did a great job of shepherding him out.

Edwards over hit a pass as Spurs worked the ball into a good area, and then the same player showed lovely quick feet but played a through-ball that was just too heavy for Sterling.

Edwards then nipped in to intercept as Sheaf slipped, and he carried the ball forward and curled in a right-footed shot which was deflected just wide for a corner.

At the other end, Tanganga made a terrific headed clearance from an Arsenal corner, and Owens got a ticking off from the referee having taken down France Under-17 player, Yassin Fortune.

Spurs put together another nice piece of play when Tracey found Shashoua who found Stylianides, but again Stylianides was guilty of a poor pass.

Whiteman made a good two-handed save to keep the busy Hinds’ effort out, and Spurs went up the other end to win a corner; Edwards found Sterling and, though his pass was scuffed, Brown showed good tenacity to go up the line and force the set piece.

A couple of poor passes from Owens (an under-hit square ball) and Tracey (an easily blocked attempted cross-field) drew slight groans from the crowd. Sheaf had another effort on goal which went over, and Fortune had a good chance when he got down the line beyond Tracey but missed the target when aiming for the near post.

As the first half came to a close, Stylianides scooped a ball forward, and Sterling won a free-kick, but Edwards’ kick was dealt with, albeit at the expense of an injury to goalkeeper Ryan Huddart, which kept him down for a minute or so.

Spurs started the second half on the front foot; Tanganga played a terrific diagonal to Edwards, but it unfortunately ran through his legs.

Sterling’s rising shot from the edge of the box was saved but Spurs made the breakthrough when Edwards gave Sterling the ball one-on-one with his man. He shot across goal from a tight angle, and when Huddart could only palm it out, the industrious Sam Shashoua was there to tap in.

Tanganga made a brilliant run forward and was brought down by Sheaf, who was given a few stern words by the referee.

Edwards received the ball wide on the right, surrounded by three Arsenal players, and all they could think to repeatedly say was ‘no foul’, so concerned they were about Edwards’ quick feet.

Owens showed a lovely bit of poise in the middle of midfield to turn away from two Arsenal players and ping a pass out to Edwards, but it was a tiny bit too long for him and he was unable to take advantage.

Tracey showed his defensive skills once again, standing up well to his man on the byline.

Hinds was taken off for Arsenal (replaced by Romanian Under-16 captain, Vlad Dragomir) and he passed the captain’s armband to Sheaf.

Malen had Arsenal’s first effort on goal of the second half when he blazed over, before Spurs won a free-kick in a great position. Edwards found Sterling, who slid Shashoua in with a clever pass with the outside of his right foot — Shashoua was pulled back right on the edge of the box. As Edwards stepped up, John McDermott called for him to keep it low. Edwards’ free-kick hit the wall, wrong-footed Huddart and found the bottom right corner for 2-0.

Maghoma’s excellent slide-rule pass found Shashoua but his first touch was too heavy and the ball got away from him.

Sterling had a good chance to make it three when he isolated and then beat his man, but he lost his balance at the vital moment and went to ground.

Maghoma burst forward onto a Dylan Duncan pass but hit the side netting, and Malen steered a chance wide for Arsenal from substitute Aaron Eyoma’s cross.

Spurs were 3-0 up just a few seconds later, and what a good goal it was. Sterling showed a lovely touch to make a yard of space in midfield. He slid Edwards in on the right side and, as ever, he cut in onto his favoured left foot. Edwards curled a delicious low finish into the corner, Huddart unable to keep it out despite getting his fingertips to it.

Ryan Loft and Keanan Bennetts replaced Sterling and Shashoua, and Spurs carried on as they had been all half, as Edwards got in — this time from a Dylan Duncan pass — and whilst he successfully cut in to create space again, his near-post effort went narrowly wide on this occasion.

Edwards played Loft in to fire over the bar, and Spurs made their final change – George Marsh replacing Stylianides. I believe Marsh has been injured, and it was good to see him back – a player I like.

Spurs wrapped up the win with a stylish fourth — Duncan playing Loft in with a pass which pierced the Arsenal defence, and Loft finished calmly.

This was a really enjoyable performance from Spurs — weathering the storm in the first half, before growing into the game and dominating in the second half. Having not seen so many games this year, I presume this was the best of the season for this group. It was the final game of the first stage of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League campaign, and we finished in eighth place.

Having gained a place in the second tier for the next stage, we will play Aston Villa, Leicester City and Arsenal from the south division, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough, and either Blackburn Rovers or Sunderland from the north division, depending on results.

Alfie Whiteman 7 – he made two decent saves, and read the game well on occasion too. His distribution was a bit unpredictable.
Shilow Tracey 7 – did an excellent job defensively, using his physical prowess (strength and speed) to get the better of his man on several occasions. I was surprised he didn’t bomb on too often, but that was probably the right decision as it was his first game at right-back
Christian Maghoma 8 – a really dominant performance from the captain. Strong in the tackle, showed leadership by talking Tracey through the game, and used the ball intelligently, bursting forward a few times.
Japhet Tanganga 8 – terrific display from an exciting young talent — read the game brilliantly and made some good clearing headers. His run forward in the second half was — as Dan said during the game — Jan-esque.
Jaden Brown 7 – a polished performance at left-back.
Charlie Owens 7 – struggled a little early on, but grew into the game well and played some nice passes.
Zenon Stylianides 5 – worked hard throughout but unfortunately did give the ball away quite a lot.
Marcus Edwards 9 – a terrific performance in which he show-cased all of the skill that we’ve come to know him for – brilliant dribbling, dynamic passing and movement, and a top quality finish to boot. I was delighted to see him track back to right-back in the last minute too.
Dylan Duncan 7 – hard-working display and got a good assist at the end.
Sam Shashoua 6 – worked hard but did at times struggle against a more physical opponent. Did well to follow in to open the scoring.
Kazaiah Sterling 8 – some lovely link-up play with Edwards, and showed plenty of ability with his mazy runs too. The only thing missing was a goal.

Keanan Bennetts – didn’t see much of the ball but made good counter-attacking runs.
Ryan Loft – took his goal terrifically.
George Marsh – did not have time to make an impact, but good to see him back.

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February 13, 2016

Spurs Youth/Academy Updates

It’s been a while since I have written any form of youth update – partly because, due to personal circumstance, I have barely seen any Under-18 football this season, and partly because there are others doing it so well on Twitter – namely the fantastic @thfcacademy, a ‘must follow’.

Under-18s

Firstly, as far I have been told, this is what will happen with the second year academy scholars at the end of the season (in order of age):

Ryan Loft 14 Sep 1997 – third year of scholarship.
Armani Daly 23 Sep 1997 – released.
Chris Paul 25 Sep 1997 – released.
Christian Maghoma 8 Nov 1997 – contract.
Charlie Hayford 29 Nov 1997 – released.
Charlie Owens 7 Dec 1997 – contract.
Joe Muscatt 15 Dec 1997 – third year of scholarship.
Musa Yahaya 16 Dec 1997 – status still unknown after recent ‘loan’ move.
Thomas Glover 24 Dec 1997 – contract.
Cameron Carter Vickers 31 Dec 1997 – contract.
Zenon Stylianides 7 Jan 1998 – contract.
Tom McDermott 30 Jan 1998 – unknown.
Shilow Tracey 29 Apr 1998 – as he’s only just joined, I assume he signed a (one year?) contract.

None of those being released surprised me. I wish them well, obviously, as I do any player that has been through the academy, but ultimately they did not show enough by this point. I was slightly surprised to hear that Owens and Stylianides had been given contracts rather than being offered another year of a scholarship to prove themselves – perhaps it speaks to their hard work and attitude on the training pitch.

In terms of those leaving, Charlie Hayford played for Palace against Charlton. He then scored for them against Colchester.

As well as Hayford, Chris Paul was previously training with Birmingham, and Armani Daly has trialled for QPR. Good luck to them in finding clubs. Hayford always impressed me with his attitude on the pitch, even if his ability was not on a par with others.

Under-21s

Things have not been good for our Under-21s. We have not won in the Under-21 Premier League since November (seven matches without a win). Results are not all that important at that level, and so I am not overly concerned about the results themselves. But results can help build confidence and momentum in a team, and in individuals. The performances have been disappointing, and Ugo Ehiogu continues to make some odd team selections – possibly because he’s instructed to, to help development, or possibly because he’s trying to plug gaps.

There are several individual players at Under-21 level that ultimately aren’t good enough, leaving myself and other watchers wondering why we have not been promoting more of the Under-18s, or using youngsters from the first team squad if extra experience/physicality is required (as has been one of the arguments for the starts Anton Walkes has been getting in attacking midfield).

One particular player impacted has been Luke Amos, who has played mostly at left-back this season, despite being a defensive midfielder who was playing for England in that role. He has regressed this year – in my opinion, through no fault of his own. He played at centre-back in the last match; an improvement on left-back, but still not ideal.

Ehiogu has also been playing winger Anthony Georgiou at left-back too, and Anton Walkes – who was always a bit of a utility man at Under-18 level (he played defensive midfield, centre-back, full-back) as a number 10. Walkes has popped up with the odd goal, and does seem to time his arrival into the box well, but he is struggling in this position on the whole, and the experiment now needs to end.

John McDermott’s Role

Before Christmas, John McDermott’s job title was updated on the official Spurs website to ‘Head of Coaching & Player Development’, with Dean Rastrick listed as ‘Academy Manager’. I asked the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust to ask for clarity on McDermott’s role when they met with the Tottenham Hotspur board last week, which they have kindly done. The minutes of the meeting can be found here and the specific section is below:

THST Minutes

It seems as though McDermott has taken on some of the duties that Tim Sherwood was covering – i.e. overseeing loans and the link between the academy and the first team. As a slight aside, Paul Brush has been responsible for keeping tabs on loan players. Speaking of which…

Loans

Between February 9th and March 24th Football League clubs can sign players on loan for between 28 and 93 days at a time. This is known as the emergency loan window. We know that Kyle Walker-Peters has been linked to Chesterfield, so I wonder whether that might go ahead.

We also know that Wycombe are looking for a forward, after allowing Aaron Amadi-Holloway to move on loan to free up funds. We have a relationship with Wycombe having previously sent Jordan Archer there, so I wonder whether we might send Shayon Harrison there or whether we would rather keep him around to train with the first team squad (and perhaps even be on the bench in the Europa League).

There have been some developments with our loan players. Firstly, Dominic Ball has played a couple of games in defensive midfield for Rangers, a role he did play in his youth career. He spoke about how Tottenham were monitoring him in a very interesting recent interview with the Daily Record. Perhaps he can be the next Eric Dier!

Grant Ward has seen his manager at Rotherham, Neil Redfearn, leave the club. This was a real pity, as Redfearn had been speaking very highly of Ward. Neil Warnock has taken over there – hmmm!

Connor Ogilvie has also seen his manager leave, as Teddy Sheringham has left Stevenage. Ogilvie has had a good season with Stevenage and, Sheringham was talking him up just before Christmas.

Europa League Squad

We recently updated our UEFA Europa League squad, with Andros Townsend, Alex Pritchard and Federico Fazio removed. As I said back in December, Alfie Whiteman has been added:

There are now a few youngsters included on List B:

Luke McGee
Alfie Whiteman
Cameron Carter-Vickers
Nabil Bentaleb
Josh Onomah
Harry Winks
Shayon Harrison

Tom Glover is included in List A as he has not been on the club long enough to be included on List B.

England Youth Development

Moving on, this was an interesting read from the Independent on the England team’s development and ambitions to win the 2022 World Cup.

Matt Crocker, the FA’s head of player and coach development, told the writer the following:

“Chelsea currently have a great model in terms of their development programme and talent ID model, while Tottenham have some fantastic, technical players who can do the things that we want them to do.

There are others. Birmingham City are producing some great youth players, Fulham are on the way up, but overall in terms of consistency, Chelsea and Tottenham lead the way.”

Very encouraging!

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February 9, 2016

“Spurs did well at the weekend”

I wrote this for Iain Macintosh’s wonderful site, The Set Pieces.

“Spurs did well at the weekend,” is something my work colleagues generally used to say to me, perhaps twice a year and usually in a slightly surprised tone of voice. The sort of voice that suggested they were still questioning the accuracy of the late James Alexander Gordon correctly. These days, or this season at least, it’s never said. It’s just expected that Spurs did well at the weekend because, and I can’t believe I’m writing this either , Spurs do well most weeks.

But Spurs don’t just do well in a Spurs way, by looking the better team, going a goal ahead before playing a horrible back pass or scoring an own goal or doing something equally daft which ultimately leads to defeat. Spurs are doing well and winning matches. They are also drawing a lot of matches, granted, but they are winning quite a lot of matches, More than they lose, that’s for sure.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are a new breed of Tottenham, regardless of how this season ends. They are a youthful, exciting, progressive Tottenham. A Tottenham that, prior to this weeks’ fixtures, had recovered more points than any other team in the Premier League (14). A Tottenham that runs and runs and presses and presses and doesn’t just rely on individual moments of brilliance from Gareth Bale or Dimitar Berbatov or Robbie Keane or David Ginola or José Dominguez (EDITOR’S NOTE: Wait…what?). There is no ‘I’ in this young, united Tottenham Hotspur team, despite the presence of some brilliant individuals.

And young they are; the youngest in the Premier League. That Mauricio Pochettino likes to work with young players is surely one of the main reasons why he was employed. The Spurs Academy has recently produced a conveyor belt of talent that just needed a chance. That chance began with Tim Sherwood, and has thoroughly continued under Pochettino. There’s more talent to come too.

18-year old attacking midfielder Josh Onomah has started a couple of cup matches and had a handful of league minutes. He is a direct, hip-swivelling, creative player who commits defenders and carries the ball well. His 20-year old central midfield buddy Harry Winks has made an appearance, too — a more patient player, Winks likes to dictate tempo, and passes and moves a little like a more forward-thinking, more right-footed Tom Carroll. The likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers (centre-back) and Shayon Harrison (forward) have been involved in first team training, and 18-year old right back Kyle Walker-Peters (EDITOR’S NOTE: I checked, he’s real. Imagine him and Kyle Walker and Moussa Dembele and Mousa Dembele) might just be the best Spurs youngster that you’ve never heard of; his ability to carry the ball forward at pace, and especially his dribbling and control in tight spaces, are exciting indeed.

Spurs are, for once, a functioning, coherent football club. Daniel Levy is accumulating expert Heads of Department in every area that you could imagine a football club might need: Mauricio Pochettino (Head Coach), Paul Mitchell (Head of Recruitment), Rob Mackenzie (Head of Player Identification), John McDermott (Head of Coaching & Player Development), Aaron Harris (Head of Sports Science & Medicine). I could go on. We have so many departments that we’re like the football equivalent of John Lewis. Never knowingly ripped off; Levy’s price matching game is strong.

Levy has finally got it right. He’s tried pretty much every style of manager: the traditional, the less traditional, the dogmatic, the experimental. And he’s settled on a coach that wants to… well, coach. Pochettino has more philosophy than Aristotle, Plato and Confucius put together, but he doesn’t just talk, he delivers. Spurs have a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, possibly for the first time in my lifetime. The system works because each player is indoctrinated, each idea entrenched.

When Eric Dier robotically drops in between the centre-backs, giving the full-backs license to push on to allow us to transition from back to front, it excites me almost as much as Harry Kane’s finishing, Son Heung-min’s quick feet or Christian Eriksen’s vision. It is the tactical, methodical minutiae that add up to create a fully functioning game-plan. When the opposition get over the halfway line: press them. When Toby Alderweireld gets his head up: make a diagonal run. Like clockwork.

Spurs’ season is going swimmingly, but there are a couple of things that could still derail them in what would be Spursy*, as the kids say. The lack of cover for Harry Kane is well documented, but the lack of cover for Eric Dier is less so. An injury to either would be fairly devastating. And the spectre of burn-out looms on the horizon like a Dementor, not sucking the soul, but rather spewing lactic acid directly into the legs of key players.

Pochettino has been smart in his rotation of the wingers and band of three behind Kane, but Kane himself, Dier and Alli have played an awful lot of games for players not accustomed to a full season at this level. They have done remarkably well to last as long as they have, but it would not be a great surprise to see a dip in form from any of them. Let’s hope that adrenalin can get them through.

Regardless of any potential drop-off, Pochettino has delivered a season of which everyone can be proud. A fit, well-drilled, youthful, and fairly home-grown Tottenham team that consistently plays good football, consistently defends well, and consistently doesn’t get thrashed by their top four rivals is a rare delight; fans will be speaking of this season for many years to come for all the right reasons.

*I say ‘as the kids say’ because those of an older vintage will remember 2013 — very different times — when Spursy was ‘invented’ by a poster on The Fighting Cock forum known as Carlito Brigante. He used it to describe the flair players at Spurs — a bit lightweight but with a touch of class. Those who he said may ‘go missing at Stoke on a cold February evening’. It now has an Urban Dictionary entry, but alas with the newer definition: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Spursy.

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Really interesting interview with Onomah; talks about Dembele being a role model, and how he feels he will play cen… https://t.co/r7o6o5Y4oe
14 hours ago