July 29, 2014

Spurs youth round-up

Ledley King appointed Under-18 coach

News that may have gone a little under the radar due to the North American tour was that legendary captain, Ledley King, has been appointed as a part-time Under-18 coach. Academy Manager & Head of Coaching, John McDermott told the official site:

“Ledley has come through the coaching training programme undertaken by a number of senior players in recent seasons, including Scott Parker, Brad Friedel and Michael Dawson.

We are now looking for Ledley to spend 2-3 days a week assisting our Under-18 group with their on and off pitch development.

Using senior players as role models within our Academy is a scheme we are keen to nurture and develop further.”

There are few better people to learn from than McDermott. I wish Ledley well, and look forward to seeing him at Hotspur Way!

Ugo Ehiogu appointed Under-21 coach

Ugo Ehiogu has been appointed as our Under-21 coach, taking over from Chris Ramsey, who left the club after Tim Sherwood’s dismissal. Ehiogu has been working with our young players for some time (Under-16s, I believe) and so knows our set-up. Presumably his work so far has been such that he was deserving of this promotion – it’ll be interesting to see what style the team plays in the forthcoming season.

Assisting Ehiogu is former Spurs Academy player, Matthew Wells. After suffering from a series of injuries which stopped him from ‘making it’, Matthew decided to go into coaching. In his relatively short career (he’s in his 20s), he’s worked at Stevenage as Head of Technical Development, as well as at the Nike Academy as an Assistant Coach.

Under-21 tournament

We recently took a young Under-21 squad to Ploufragan, north-west France to compete in the National Under-21 Tournament.

The travelling party was as per the picture below:

THFC

Back row: Harry Voss, Nathan Oduwa, Jon Obika, Anton Walkes, Dominic Ball, Ruben Lameiras, Daniel Akindayini, Harry Winks, Joshua Onomah, Tom Glover
Front row: Shaquile Coulthirst, Alex McQueen, Will Miller, Filip Lesniak, Aaron McEneff, Emmanuel Sonupe, Kyle Walker-Peters, Cameron Carter-Vickers

Our results were as follows:

Olympique Marseille: lost 1-0.
Lorient: won 1-0 (Onomah).
EA Guingamp: lost 2-1 (Lameiras).
Auxerre: lost 1-0.

Without knowing the ages of the other squads, it’s quite difficult to assess our performance, but it’s worth noting that the majority of our squad were 18-years old or younger, so to be playing against players potentially three years older will stand them in good stead.

Musa Yahaya

The young Nigerian, Musa Yahaya, has been training with us in pre-season, after he signed a pre-contract agreement in March (having reportedly turned down Arsenal and Ajax).

He was unable to sign a full contract as he does not turn 17 until mid-December.

He is expected to join La Liga side, Celta Vigo, on loan in September – he doesn’t have a work permit, and the regulations are sufficiently different in Spain to allow him to play there.

Yahaya is highly rated and is already in the Nigeria Under-20 squad despite technically being an Under-17 player.

This website describes how he signed him in March from Mutunchi Academy for a fee of one million Euros (excluding performance related incentives) and explains his contract situation:

The Nigeria youth international has signed a pre-contract with Spurs, but there is a black and white agreement in place that he will pen a professional deal with effect from January 1, 2016, and by then he would have attained the age of maturity.

For agreeing to sign a preliminary contract with the Londoners, Yahaya would be paid £125,000 in five equal installments excluding his annual wage of £120,000, on the proviso that he remains on the books of his nursery club, Mutunchi Academy until December 31, 2015.

Musa Yahaya’s contract with Spurs will expire on June 30, 2020, and he is set to pocket £50,000 when he makes his first Premier League start for the club.

Rareş Lazăr‏

Meanwhile, we’ve reportedly picked up another young talent in Romanian, Rareş Lazăr‏.

Rares Lazar

Rareş has been signed from FC Vaslui, who play in Liga I in Romania. Last season he became the second youngest player to have ever appeared in Liga I at 15 years, 1 month and 20 days!

The central midfielder had trials at QPR and Liverpool, but has agreed to join Spurs, signing a two-year deal.

This year’s scholars

Spurs have been, as usual, slow to update the Academy section of the official site, but I would expect the new intake to include:

Thomas Glover (goalkeeper)
Alfie Whiteman (goalkeeper)
Christian Maghoma (centre back)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (centre back)
Chris Paul (right back)
Joe Muscatt (left back)
Zenon Stylianides (central midfielder)
Charlie Owens (central midfielder)
Ismail Azzaoui (attacking midfielder)
Armani Daly (winger/forward)
Charlie Hayford (attacking midfielder)

The players moving up to the second year are:

Joe Pritchard
Lloyd Ross
Harry Voss
Anton Walkes
Luke Amos
Anthony Georgiou
Cy Goddard
Kyle Walker-Peters
Joshua Onomah
Shayon Harrison

However, Onomah has been given a professional contract, such is his ability. I would expect him to be with the Under-21 squad, and there’s a fair chance that a couple of others will join him there – Kyle Walker-Peters certainly, but also Carter-Vickers, despite being a first year.

Players to watch

We have a number of impressive players who are close to making appearances for the first team; assuming that we stay in the cup competitions, I would expect to see glimpses of the following players:

Dominic Ball – centre-back who made the bench away at Benfica.
Harry Winks – central midfielder, and another player who was an unused substitute away at Benfica.
Connor Ogilvie – versatile defender who also made the bench away at Benfica.
Nathan Oduwa – tricky forward who normally plays wide.
Joshua Onomah – gifted central midfielder; Martin Lipton of The Mirror recently suggested that he might be in the England team by 2018.

Of course we’ve also seen Mason, Carroll, Ceballos, Falque, Fryers, Fredericks, Archer, McGee and Veljovic in the first team squad in America, and I’d expect that we’ll see more of some of these, whilst others might be sent on loan or sold.

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July 27, 2014

Chicago Fire match – some thoughts

If you didn’t get to see the match live, there are streaming links here. As with the Toronto FC match, I’ve written some brief notes.

First half:

- Mason seems to have taken to Pochettino’s tactics like a duck to water. He positioned himself intelligently again and seemed to enjoy playing alongside the defensive-minded Capoue. One example of his understanding was that if the centre backs were in possession with no pressure on the ball, he dropped into the left back area to provide an option with Rose pushing high up:

Mason dropping into left back

He did this frequently and it allowed us to patiently progress up the pitch, rather than the centre-backs having to hit long diagonals or go back to the goalkeeper. For more information about Ryan Mason, check out this article I wrote just over a year ago.

- The opening goal came out of nowhere:

Goal 1

We forced Chicago Fire back to their goalkeeper – Kane closed him down and Townsend/Lamela blocked off two of the simple ‘out balls’, leaving just one option.

Goal 2

Holtby quickly realised the pressing opportunity.

Goal 3

There was a slightly heavy touch from Larentowicz, and with the defender not realising anyone was near him, Holtby was on him like a flash – he nicked the ball and squared it to Kane to finish.

- Holtby was a bit of an enigma again. Whilst he has an impressive one goal and two assists in three matches on this tour, and his pressing has been fantastic, his passing has been quite poor and he’s committed a high number of fouls. He put the team in trouble a couple of times with sloppy passes – it’s early days, but if he’s to play as one of the midfield three, he will need to be a lot more assured in possession.
- Lamela was largely on the periphery of the action but had a couple of moments of real quality where he beat a man and then took on a shot; it felt like had we got the ball to him more, there would have been more of these moments.

Second half:

- Soldado showed an impressive level of motivation and responsibility by tracking back to the right back area and making a good tackle.
- It was no surprise to me that Dawson looked far, far more assured alongside Veljkovic. A quick note on Veljkovic – for an 18-year old who has mostly played in midfield for the last eighteen months, he has performed remarkably well at centre-back, and offers us another ball-playing defender, particularly useful in games where we would expect to dominate possession.
- When Holtby went off Lennon switched to the right (and tucked in as part of a midfield three in the defensive phase) – although he seemed less willing to press high than Holtby had.
- Veljkovic lost possession with a risky pass to Falque (who was pretty weak), but made up for it with a fantastic block.
- Eriksen looked pretty out of sorts again. He’s such a talented player that we will clearly find a role for him, but it does raise the question – where does he fit in? I’m not totally convinced that he has the intensity or fitness to play the role that Holtby started in and Lennon finished in, where he’s required to tuck in and make up the midfield three.
- When Fredericks came on for Veljkovic, our back four was Fredericks, Dawson, Davies, Naughton – it’s worth noting that Davies has played centre-back before.
- The second goal was well taken by Lennon, who linked up with Soldado and latched onto a somewhat hopeful ball over the top. The defending was really poor but he capitalised well.
- Eriksen had a similar chance minutes later but lacked composure as the goalkeeper came to meet him.
- The second half in particular felt very low-key, and there was no tempo to the match - tired legs at the end meant that we were creating chances with straightforward long balls over the top.

General thoughts:

- Last season a major complaint of mine was that we moved the ball too slowly and too predictably in midfield (which was one reason I liked Bentaleb, who moves the ball well). In Mason, Carroll and Capoue we’ve had players on this tour who’ve looked to move the ball quickly and often progressively with as few touches as possible. I’m sure Pochettino will have noted this.
- Capoue has looked really good on this tour and his fitness has visibly improved by the game.
- Ryan Fredericks made a positive cameo at right-back, beating his man and getting to the by-line twice. In a team where full-backs are asked to play high, perhaps he will be kept around after all (I’d assumed he would be loaned out or sold).
- Luke McGee made his first appearance in the first team and was confident enough to keep possession with short passing deep in the penalty area.
- Spurs loanee Grant Ward played a very tidy 55 minutes for Chicago Fire.

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July 26, 2014

Under-21s in France

Our Development Squad is currently participating in the National Under-21 Tournament in Ploufragan, north-west France.

We lost our first match 1-0 to Olympique Marseille on Friday.

Our line-up was as follows: Voss, McQueen, Walker-Peters, Winks, Carter-Vickers, Lesniak, Sonupe, Onomah, Obika, Oduwa, McEneff.

I can only presume that the formation was:

Voss
Walker-Peters McQueen Carter-Vickers McEneff
Winks Lesniak Onomah
Sonupe Obika Oduwa

For a full report, check out the official site.

Today we play Lorient (kick off 11am local time) and Guingamp (kick off 6.30pm local time).

THFC

Back row: Harry Voss, Nathan Oduwa, Jon Obika, Anton Walkes, Dominic Ball, Ruben Lameiras, Daniel Akindayini, Harry Winks, Joshua Onomah, Tom Glover
Front row: Shaquile Coulthirst, Alex McQueen, Will Miller, Filip Lesniak, Aaron McEneff, Emmanuel Sonupe, Kyle Walker-Peters, Cameron Carter-Vickers

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July 24, 2014

Toronto FC match – some thoughts

I don’t want to go into too much detail, because Luke Balls-Burgess has done that here, and I don’t think there’s a lot else that can be said about the second pre-season friendly of the summer, but having just caught up on the Toronto game, I’ve written some brief notes. I’ve no desire to judge players or make bold statements this early on in pre-season, so these observations should be taken in context.

First half:

-Greater coherence than Saturday, especially in the first half. Unsure if that’s due to more practice or different personnel.
-Loved the way Capoue covered the left back area on a couple of occasions – something a modern defensive midfielder must do. He was a strong presence in midfield too.
-In fact, the central midfield was nicely balanced with the dynamic Mason alongside Capoue, and Eriksen adding craft ahead of them.
-If you’ve followed me on Twitter for a while, you might know that I think a lot of Mason – I genuinely think that, were it not for injury, he’d be in the England squad by now. Mason as well as Veljkovic looked perfectly entitled to be out there in the first half.
-Lamela’s intensity was highly impressive.
-Davies used the ball well from advanced areas – Naughton less so.
-Lennon was very involved, albeit not always choosing the right option.
-Lamela’s goal saw us make 11 passes from back to front – the first made by Lamela (a chest down after Kaboul’s clearance). The only players to take more than two touches in the move were Naughton, Eriksen and Soldado; Mason’s first time pass to Eriksen in particular was sublime. It was an excellent team goal.
-Soldado was rarely involved in build-up play, yet claimed two assists.
-There was a lot of fluidity behind Soldado, with Lennon, Lamela and Eriksen roaming.
-Pochettino was keen to pass instructions onto Lennon – on the face of it he seemed fairly unimpressed.
-Lamela’s second goal was a glorious finish – even if he didn’t fancy it, he had Lennon and Eriksen free in the box square of him.

Second half:

-We instantly looked less assured, and it was because of the midfield. With just Carroll holding, we looked unbalanced – it was like two separate teams of five – one in our half, and one in the opposition half.
-Holtby played a lot higher than Mason had in the first half, and this didn’t change all half so he was presumably instructed to do so.
-Rose made the cross of the match – Kane should have buried it but was caught a little on his heels.
-For the first Toronto goal, Ceballos gave the ball away when Holtby was ahead of ball – Carroll tried to jockey back to bide time, when he should probably have put some pressure on the ball. Fryers didn’t track his man – instead hesitating and trying to play offside (bad decision with no pressure on the ball!).
-Townsend has been written off by many, but he looks so different to our other players – very direct and willing to commit players. That alone makes him a useful asset. With a bit of coaching I still think he can be very good for us.
-Walker was understandably reserved in his first match back.
-Fryers’ man got the second goal too, but I think Friedel could perhaps have saved it.
-Carroll had a near impossible job of linking play, as there was a huge gap between him and the next nearest player. This reflected badly on him, but in truth when he received the ball and turned, he rarely had an option.
-What a hit from Townsend to win the game!

General thoughts:

-We’re going to complete a lot of passes in the forthcoming season, and players who are sloppy or ponderous will not be welcome.
-We’re going to need players in the final third who are productive, as I can’t see too many goals coming from central midfield.
-Dawson has received a lot of criticism for his performance, but I feel like he was hamstrung by playing alongside Fryers.

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June 12, 2014

The Fighting Cock Fanzine

I’m proud to say that I was asked to write again for Tottenham’s only printed fanzine, The Fighting Cock, and that it is now available for pre-order.

Free 1882 & The Fighting Cock stickers with the first few orders – Limited stock​

My article – Football Is Family – is a sentimental effort, something quite new for me, but hopefully it’ll strike a chord with some. A sample of some of the terrific artwork is below.

FiF

I hope you’ll buy it and, if you do, I hope you enjoy my article.

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That said, Eric Dier wouldn't need to be named in our 25-man squad until next season as he's only 20. #THFC
17 hours ago