March 28, 2016
This morning a Tottenham Hotspur Under-19 squad lost in a semi-final match with Red Ball Salzburg in what has been a largely underwhelming U19 Champions Trophy performance.
Obviously I don’t know how impacted other teams were by international call-ups, but Spurs were without Charlie Owens, Alfie Whiteman, Marcus Edwards, Jaden Brown, Japhet Tanganga and Sam Shashoua, plus Under-16 Nya Kirby for this tournament. Tashan Oakley-Booth did not make the trip either – possibly because we already had quite a few midfielders involved.
All players born after 1st January 1997 were eligible to play, and so Cameron Carter-Vickers, Harry Voss, Luke Amos and Shayon Harrison were also eligible for the tournament, but were either injured (Carter-Vickers, Voss) or considered too far advanced to justify their inclusion (Amos, Harrison). Chris Paul, Charlie Hayford and Armani Daly are in the midst of looking for new clubs and so were not included. But we did have a number of players dropping down from Under-21 football.
And in age order:
Anton Walkes 8 Feb 1997, 19
Anthony Georgiou 24 Feb 1997, 19
Cy Goddard 2 Apr 1997, 18
Ryan Loft 14 Sep 1997, 18
Christian Maghoma 8 Nov 1997, 18
Joe Muscatt 15 Dec 1997, 18
Thomas Glover 24 Dec 1997, 18
Zenon Stylianides 7 Jan 1998, 18
Tom McDermott 30 Jan 1998, 18
Shilow Tracey 29 Apr 1998, 17
Aremide Oteh 10 Sep 1998, 17
George Marsh 5 Nov 1998, 17
Kazaiah Sterling 9 Nov 1998, 17
Dylan Duncan 25 Jan 1999, 17
Jack Roles 26 Feb 1999, 17
Keanan Bennetts 9 Mar 1999, 17
Nicholas Tsaroulla 29 Mar 1999, 16
Joy Mukena 3 Jul 1999, 16
Jonathan Dinzeyi 16 Sep 1999, 16
Our results were as follows:
PSV Eindhoven – drew 0-0
Borussia Mönchengladbach – won 1-0 (Maghoma)
Japan Highschool Selection – lost 2-1 (Oteh)
Fortuna Düsseldorf – won 1-0 (Bennetts)
Red Bull Salzburg – lost 1-0
Our final match — the third place play-off against Japan Highschool Selection — will take place at 13:45 UK time.
To have only scored three times in 250 minutes of football (the matches consist of two halves of 25 minutes) will be disappointing for the coaching team. But if I were John McDermott/Matt Wells, I’d have been most disappointed at the lack of bravery in possession. At times it felt as though the centre-backs kept firing aimless balls forward or straight out of play – particularly in the match against Red Bull Salzburg.
The tournament illustrated that a number of these players are not up to the levels required, and will have helped McDermott make some decisions about who stays and who goes. There are a lot of decisions to be made about the first year professionals in particular at the end of the season, as we look to re-model (and possibly trim down) the development squad.
Disappointingly, throughout the tournament, it was often the younger players who took responsibility and showed bravery on the ball. My stand-out performers thus far have been Marsh, Roles and Tsaroulla.
March 26, 2016
That’s not even a clickbait title.
This summary of a talk by John McDermott, our Head of Coaching & Player Development, at Pomona College in Southern California on 22nd March is the Best. Thing. Ever. Thank you to @RobPNicolson for taking the time to type up the lengthy notes from a fantastic lecture.
Myself and @bankruptspurs (some sardonic wit off of Twitter; look him up) had the pleasure of interviewing McDermott back in 2009. At that point we both left thoroughly convinced that our academy was in good hands, which has obviously since been proven by the long list of talented players who have been promoted to the first team or who have made excellent careers for themselves elsewhere (earning us big money in the process). Some of the insight from that interview was included in my article in issue 1 of the The Fighting Cock fanzine – the physical fanzine has since sold out, but it’s just £1 for a digital copy.
Anyway, I digress. I was so impressed by these notes from Rob, that I wanted to break them down to highlight and discuss certain sections of particular interest to me. So without further ado…
One club in the PL is paying £24,000 a year for a 9 year old and one of the 16 y.o lads at Spurs (Edwards?) was offered £250,000 to go up North (City?) Spurs were honest with the player that they we not going to do that, you stay here and get your £30,000 but if you want to go, go and all the time John has to fight against the corruption and business interest of the game. It is our job (him and fans) to make sure that we stop the game falling into this hole.
Actually, I suspect that this was Josh Onomah rather than Marcus Ewards. Onomah who was offered a deal to join Manchester City some time ago. We also know that Chelsea pay ludicrous wages to their young players — rumour has it, as I mentioned in my recent Youth Update — that Chelsea pay Ruben Loftus-Cheek more than we pay Christian Eriksen, for example! This is a tricky situation for us; not only because we have a strict wage structure (which may be extended post-new stadium, but will still be stricter than those with oil money flowing into the club), but because it is part of our underlying philosophy to not give young players too much, too young (this is discussed more later).
Football clubs are flooded with coaches but John thinks there are not that many great coaches- how do you make sure your best players are with the best coaches and the best staff- believes a lot of learning is contagious- as staff has gone from 15 to 70, how does he make sure everyone is doing the right thing for the right players.
This is fascinating insight. When I interviewed McDermott previously he spoke a lot about Ricardo Moniz and how he was there as much to indoctrinate the coaches as he was to specifically coach players. Moniz is now long gone, as are many of the coaches that he indoctrinated. McDermott raises a very good point about how he can now control the level and type of coaching as the staff numbers grow: a new problem for him. I also wonder if ‘there are not that many great coaches’ is a subtle comment on our current Academy coaching staff. This section also ties into a later one…
What does he look for in coaches- do they understand kids, do they know when to be tough, have they got an intuition/not just qualifications, do they share the same philosophy in coaching, do they understand the player development continuum? It is not about the coaches ego and winning the under 15 cups, it about getting individuals into the first team which might be of detriment to results, do the coaches have a work place knowledge and also do they have passion for coaching.
‘The coach’s ego’ – hmm!
A lot of evidence right now suggests that the most talented players are not obvious and players can very easily slip through the cracks. Pritchard and Carroll are little dots that John has taken a chance/risk on because of his experience with other players.
This is something that has been embedded in Spurs for some time. I believe we were one of the first clubs to start ‘sticking with’ smaller, less physical players when a lot of English academies were promoting the big lads who could bully the opposition physically. Alex Pritchard and Tom Carroll are the examples given here, but the examples now go deep within the academy – from Cy Goddard at Under-21 level, to Marcus Edwards at Under-18 level, to Oliver Skipp in the Under-16s — it is not at all unusual to see very small players given opportunities at Spurs.
We have a player right now called Shayon Harrison who is pretty good and trains with the first team, Pochetinno came over to John and said ‘John, Shayon is lazy’ just loud enough so Shayon would hear him. Shayon came knocking on John’s door later asking him what that was about. John told Shayon that Poch has worked with Veron/Maradona, he played a year with Aguero, he trains everyday with Kane- Poch’s frame of reference is so high that he is not saying you are actually lazy but when he is comparing you it can be deemed mediocre.
This is an absolutely brilliant anecdote which shows how psychology can be used to motivate a player, as well as showing the levels that our young players now have to reach to impress.
John is worried that coaches in the modern game are so focused on moneyball stats that players will start to slip through the cracks. Harry Kane at 14 years of age, was relatively fat, August birthday, immature, and was ‘forgettable Harry’- his peers could jump higher, they could run quicker and his agility was 30% lower than the average- ‘runt of the litter’ – so what was it that John saw? He thanked God that he had experienced Ashely Young and Mariappa- there was something beyond stats and sport scientists- an intuition
This is why embedding experienced coaches within the academy is so essential. The risk of letting players like Kane slip through the net due to physical attributes must be a constant concern. Having said that, I could see something in Kane when I first saw him at 15 — he had an understanding of the game, and ability to work within a team structure that is quite rare, and so I doubt they were as close to letting him slip away than is implied. Players are now given longer to prove themselves (for example, Mason finally got his chance at 23) and, in my opinion, that is a good thing, if managed well. And by managed well, I mean that players are not hanging around indefinitely for years, being given one-year extension after one-year extension without any obvious progression being made.
What does he look for in his players- extreme talent alone you will fail… personal values/characteristics and doing the brilliant basics right= good chance of making it, having those two with extreme talent= might become a top player
This is why so many talented players have failed and will continue to do so — a combination of these factors is essential. You might make a good career with two out of the three, but you must likely won’t fulfil your potential (see: Adel Taarabt).
John does not want U18’s to like him… Respect him but not like him, and that Kane did not like him at U18 because John kept telling Kane ‘I want more’ and he used to fall out with Kane and Townsend all the time.
I have heard numerous stories over the years about players falling out with McDermott, and it’s normally because he has told them something they did not want to hear. This is absolutely the way it should be — so long as the player responds in the right way.
Told a story about Townsend who was dropped and refused to be released and kept turning up, eventually John and Chris (Ramsey) stopped caring because he refused to be told no. John thinks this is evidence to show local players work and that our foreign academy players usually go back home for a number of reasons e.g. socially, culturally etc.
This story is probably fairly well-known — it certainly made the papers around the time that Townsend broke through — but is worth acknowledging again.
Poch wants 5 things in a player, technically good, tactically good, physically outstanding, mentally strong and faith- they have to believe in what we are about. A player must unconditionally believe in the plan, for example: If Poch tells Kane, run around that pitch three times, do press ups and it will give you a better chance of scoring, Harry is going to do it. Poch has the young players in the palm of his hand and the synergy that comes with that John thinks is amazing.
This brought joy to my heart, particularly the last line. Ultimate belief in the Head Coach’s philosophy is vital, and it is this that I think has led to our incredible team performances this season.
Question: How does John deal with a player like Bentaleb who has tasted success, and now seems to be overlooked in the first team frame and is having to play for the U21’s for game time?
Nabil has had his injuries, similarly with Andros and that he would like to talk about Andros as he is no longer at the club. Andros is an orthodox winger and did not really fit in with the way Poch plays. John then started talking about the ‘bomb’ squad- Adebayor, Capoue etc.- that were out of favour with Poch but Poch never told them to play with the reserves and would treat them as equal as other first teamers and there will be nothing in any of their books that says Poch treated me like a dog. Bentaleb and Townsend both asked to play for the U21’s, it was NOT a punishment of any sort. Poch would not work like that nor would he want to put a bad apple in the U21 and poison the side. John considers it one of the hardest things to manage, winning after a win and you hope a kid has an internal drive to keep going and gave an example of Mason who never stops, an incredible internal drive even though he only started properly playing at 22, and John used the quote ‘You stay on the train long enough and the scenery will change’ but you have got to be good enough to stay on the train and we hope that for Nabil/Townsend as you need your 600 games to get your 200 great games.
A couple of things stood out in this section. Firstly, his choice of term — ‘bomb squad’ — and secondly, Bentaleb and Townsend requesting to play Under-21 football. It sounds as though Pochettino absolutely did not banish that group of players, but implies here that they were seen as some sort of ticking time-bomb. And on the latter point, huge credit to Bentaleb and Townsend, who are/were going about things the right way. McDermott seems hopeful on Bentaleb. Also, we already knew about Mason’s attitude (it’s something I have written about before) but it is good to see it come directly from McDermott again.
John thinks his relationship with the first team manager is very important and there has been 1 or 2 managers that were like chalk and cheese to him. One manager in particular had very different values to John’s and had no time for John. I think John implied that he did not get on well with Harry Redknapp, so Spurs brought in Sherwood- who John and Harry both really like to act as the mediator- so John must find a way to make a connection to the first team manager if he has 19-20 year old players he can trust. If he does not, he is doing a disservice to them because they will be dismissed. Finding that relationship with Poch was easy, they spend 2-3 hours a day with each other, Sherwood was also easy, Redknapp very difficult, Ramos very difficult, AVB brilliant start but went into his shadow a little bit which made it difficult.
It is fascinating that Tim Sherwood was brought in to essentially bridge a personality clash. Sherwood is obviously well thought of by McDermott, and this is something I had heard before.
Something that is interesting about Poch that John thinks he has right- Poch is a leader of people, a very warm, Latin, touchy feely man, he has got something about him, an X factor- if you took Poch from Tottenham right now, they would not be half as successful- with him he has Jesus Perez who is a sports scientist- very clever and analytical, a goalkeeping coach- Toni Jiminez that is an outward, outgoing personality that brings humour and his assistant who is someone that Poch trusts more than anyone- this group filter and contextualise everything- John looks at statistics but trusts his eye also and cross references- Poch will often say something does not feel right- uses his intuition- example: Bentaleb when your face is not smiling, your feet are not smiling- an intuition allied with statistics
Doesn’t this make you love Pochettino and his team even more?
Question: What does distinguish Tottenham’s academy from others?
Unique selling point- pay less wages than anyone else- treat them mean, keep them keen, they still get well paid but we do not chuck money at them- very stringent on agents- keep as many away from the club as possible who can disrupt the system- create cracks in the team and the players heads- it keeps John awake, trying to work out how he protects the old values and resist the temptation to throwing money at them- John likes to take the academy players on 30-35 international trips a year to get a worldly experience that show the players different ways of playing football- we need players that know how to play against players from other countries because they need to be prepared as the premier league is 70% foreign
I have heard previously that Spurs have a preferred agency which they encourage players to join. It is easier to manage and maintain a relationship with one or two agents from a specific agency than a multitude of different agents from different countries, different agencies, and with very different perspectives.
Additionally, the international tournaments and trips was something that McDermott was keen to tell us about when we met him in 2009. At that time, we were leading the way with this, and it is something that has caught on.
Question: How much easier is it for you with a manager like Poch in charge to persuade our youths to stay with us versus the rich clubs like PSG, Man City and Chelsea?
Gametime is his selling point regardless of the manager but the Poch factor is interesting because he is the brightest manager he has worked with, best strategist in how he has the club working, and something that keeps John awake at night- How does he make sure our academy keeps up with Poch because he has taken it to another level- we now have more academy players in the premier league than anyone else but in the last 4-5 years John has lost 6 hugely influential staff members- Ramsey, Sherwood, Alex Inglethorpe?, 2 guys working with England (no names) and Perry Suckers- a lot of the staff now have not worked at Tottenham for a long time- lots of red carpet coaches- that have done this, that and the other but really they haven’t achieved anything- they need to start knowing that they don’t know and right now John feels like he is trying to hang on to Poch coattails because he is moving forward so fast- so yes it is brilliant all these young players coming through like CCV, KWP and Onomah but his worry is to make sure there is not a gap after this period. John needs to remain credible to Poch, right now Poch trusts him but John needs to keep giving him gifts.
Pochettino is pushing McDermott to be better. Take that in for a second — he’s not just improving our first team players, and our academy players… but also our highly experienced Head of Coaching & Player Development who has worked with England and has been coaching for many, many years. Staggering.
March 25, 2016
This is a long overdue youth update from me, so I apologise to anyone who doesn’t follow me on Twitter or listen to my weekly segment on The Fighting Cock podcast, as you’ll have had to look elsewhere for your youthy nuggets! There’s a lot going on!
U19 Champions Trophy
Firstly, over this Easter weekend, an Under-19 squad will be taking part in the U19 Champions Trophy in Düsseldorf. Our schedule us as follows:
PSV Eindhoven 10:30 local time, 9:30 UK time
Borussia Mönchengladbach, 17;00 local time, 16:00 UK time
Japan Highschool Selection, 14:00 local time, 13:00 UK time
Fortuna Düsseldorf, 18:30 local time, 17:30 UK time
The next matches all take place on Easter Monday: here is the full schedule.
There should be a stream for at least some of the matches here.
The squad will most likely be made up of a mixture of Under-18 and Under-21 players who are not currently on international duty.
We have various players away representing their countries at various levels:
Nigeria Under-23s: Nathan Oduwa
Slovakia Under-21s: Filip Lesniak
England Under-20s: Harry Winks
England Under-19s: Kyle Walker-Peters and Josh Onomah
Northern Ireland Under-19s: Charlie Owens
England Under-18s: Alfie Whiteman and Marcus Edwards
England Under-17s: Jaden Brown, Japhet Tanganga and Samuel Shashoua
England Under-16s: Oliver Skipp, Nya Kirby and Reo Griffiths (Tashan Oakley-Booth and Timothy Eyoma were left out, possibly due to some sort of squad rotation).
Edwards scored two for the England Under-18s as they won 3-2 in Austria.
Onomah scored for the Under-19s in a 2-1 win over Georgia.
The full England Under-16s match vs Russia is here – Kirby gets the assist for the goal at 1hr59 in the video.
The full England Under-16s match vs USA is here – spoiler alert: it ended 2-2.
There was an excellent run-down of most of the involvement on the official site.
In the last match, a 7-3 victory vs Wolves, it was pleasing to see Oakley-Boothe and Eyoma promoted. The goals came from: Roles, Oakley-Boothe, Loft (2), Oteh, Muscatt, Duncan. The highlights are well worth a watch!
Oakley-Boothe, by all accounts, was outstanding on his first start, and came away with two assists and a goal. He is a big, big talent and one to watch. Shilow Tracey also played a part in three of our first four goals and you can see from the highlights alone that he was a threat on the right-hand side.
The Under-21s beat Leicester 3-0, with goals from Harrison 2 and Goddard. The highlights are worth watching for Goddard’s spectacular volleyed finish.
That was Kazaiah Sterling’s second appearance at that level, which is frankly ludicrous given that Shayon Harrison has been injured for a lot of the season. Sterling’s call-up was well overdue, and apparently he had an excellent game.
That was the Under-21s’ first league win since November, which goes some way to explaining the poor league placing:
We are now eight points ahead of Norwich who are sat in the first of the two relegation places in the division, though they do have a game in hand over us.
The Under-21 league format has been heavily criticised and is currently under review. The Mirror recently reported that the structure will be changing back to something closer to the old reserve league from the 2017/18 season.
Portuguese second division club Portimonense have signed Musa Yahaya on a five-year contract. This will hopefully end all of the rumours surrounding this player, who had been on a trial at Spurs. There were work permit complications, and I have been told that the club did not think it was worth pursuing – presumably because he was no better than what we had.
As I understand it, the super-talent that is Marcus Edwards has yet to sign a contract. I gather that the club are confident of him eventually signing.
It is understandable that a player widely seen as the best English 17-year old in the country would not wish to sign Spurs’ ‘standard’ first professional contract that they offer to all 17-year olds deemed worthy.
It is equally understandable that Spurs would not wish to set a precedent by offering a deal over and above what they normally would to a player of that age; we are not Chelsea (where Ruben Loftus-Cheek is paid more than Christian Eriksen, for example!).
Johstone’s Paint Trophy
The Telegraph reported last week that there are ongoing discussions which may see 16 Premier League Under-21 teams entered into the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy next season. Watch this space on that one.
UEFA Youth League
If we were to qualify for the Champions League (which looks likely), we would also be automatically be entered into the UEFA Youth League for Under-19s.
This season has seen Chelsea progress to the semi-finals:
Friday 15 April
• Semi-final at 13.00CET: Chelsea v Anderlecht
• Semi-final at 17.00CET: Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain
The competition is strong, a lot of games are televised, and the league helps to bridge the gap between Under-18 and Under-21 football, so I would be very pleased were we to qualify. I would have slight concerns about the talent level of the team that we could put out, as our eligible players are a real mix of abilities. But, in some respects, it will be a great way to sort the wheat from the chaff, so the cliché goes.
It has not been a great season for Spurs loanees, amidst a very definite change of strategy since Mauricio Pochettino became Head Coach.
There is a greater emphasis now on keeping players in-house, and loans seem to only be taken up where the opportunity is too good to turn down. For example, Luke Amos had an offer from Bradford City, and Kyle Walker-Peters had a trial at Roda JC with a view to a loan.
DeAndre Yedlin has recently become a regular at Sunderland, playing their last five Premier League matches at right-back. He has now played 13 matches in total this season.
Grant Ward has had a mixed time at Rotherham United in the Championship since Neil Redfearn was sacked as their manager. Having started 18 consecutive league matches, he has had a run of eight where he has been in and out since Warnock took over.
Dominic Ball has also been in and out, not cementing himself in the Rangers team, but still getting plenty of minutes under Mark Wartburton in the Scottish Championship. Ball has started three times as a defensive midfielder recently, and I wonder whether this might be the long-term plan for him in light of the Eric Dier experiment. Perhaps he will get some first team involvement in pre-season to check on his progression.
Poor Connor Ogilvie has damaged his ankle ligaments and will miss the rest of the season, having become a firm favourite for Stevenage in League Two. All in, he started 24 times for them and he will be looking to progress next season – be that a League One or Championship club, or with a full season of Under-21 football and even, perhaps, the occasional first-team opportunity.
Alex Pritchard has only made two substitute appearances for West Bromwich Albion since joining in January. Tony Pulis has put this down to Pritchard’s recovery from injury, saying:
“Alex has come in and has tremendous talent. He was injured at Tottenham for a long time so it’s just making sure and I think Tottenham are concerned we don’t push him too quickly too soon.
The last thing they want is the kid to get injured again so it’s just about being patient with Alex as much as anything else.
He’s trained well, he’s worked well and he’s desperate to be involved. But sometimes you have to hold them back and we have a responsibility to Tottenham for that.”
Nathan Oduwa joined Colchester United in League One at the end of his loan at Rangers. So far he has only played 44 minutes with their manager Kevin Keen saying “there’s a big difference between looking like a player and being a player and that’s what he’s got to learn.”
Finally, Ryan Loft joined Braintree Town of the Vanarama National League on a ‘work experience’ loan, as Spurs described it. I assume this is what is also known as a youth loan, where young players can also play for their parent club’s Under-18 and Under-21 sides whilst on loan. He has been on Braintree’s bench, but has not made an appearance just yet.
March 2, 2016
Just a quick one from me in light of what we have just witnessed, as I feel like I need to unburden myself. Spurs’ main strength this season has been the ability with which we have implemented and stuck to our game plan. Tonight, against West Ham, we came up against a side who did the same, only better than us.
It is a huge compliment to Spurs that West Ham effectively set up like an away team, or a lower league side in a cup match. They could be forgiven for being confused and thinking it was a cup match, since they do treat this fixture like an annual final. The home side were happy to concede possession tonight, confident in their ability to keep us out.
Whilst we played our usual 4-2-3-1, West Ham opted to line-up in a 3-4-3. They had a back three (with Cheikhou Kouyaté as a makeshift centre-back), four across the middle (with Aaron Cresswell pushed up to the left of midfield), and — most importantly — Dimitri Payet (and, to a lesser extent, Manuel Lanzini) very high in support of Emmanuel Emenike.
Their front three put us under intense pressure from the beginning, and Kieran Trippier, Ben Davies and Hugo Lloris in particular struggled to maintain their passing quality. Trippier could not cope with Payet, Emenike occupied our centre-backs (giving Kevin Wimmer several scares along the way) and chased down Lloris terrifically, and Lanzini and Michail Antonio worked Davies over on the left.
But whilst there were poor individual displays, it was West Ham’s system which floored Spurs. We found it difficult to transition from back to front, and ended the first half having had zero shots. Their front three wouldn’t let us pass out, and their midfield two worked hard to stop us having any time on the ball.
No Mousa Dembélé in midfield meant that we could not just give him the ball and bypass the first line of defence – Ryan Mason and Eric Dier had a tough ask, and they struggled in a tough midfield battle with Mark Noble and the impressive Pedro Obiang, who made eight tackles (the same number as Mason).
The second half was somewhat different. Whilst we started fairly flat still, we played with more purpose, and with a ruggedness which at least gave the impression that we would not take defeat lying down. But ultimately it became a war of attrition, and West Ham seemed quick to the second balls and did well to keep us away from goal.
Harry Kane looked shattered, Nacer Chadli was ‘bad Chadli’ — he does that sometimes — and Son Heung-min’s touch eluded him when he came off the bench. It was not our night.
I felt at half-time that Mauricio Pochettino should change tactics and go to a midfield diamond and two up top (Kane and Chadli/Son). He could even have matched up to their 3-4-3/3-4-2-1, given that he had the versatile Dier at his disposal. But I can forgive him for having faith in our side to break them down, since we have done that so often of late.
We have shown this season that we are wonderful at bouncing back, and it is now up to the coaching staff to lift the team for the big one on Saturday. Win that and the feel-good factor is back again. COYS!