March 28, 2016

U19 Champions Trophy – Update

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.

Squad List

U19 Champions Trophy Squad List

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:

Saturday
PSV Eindhoven – drew 0-0
Borussia Mönchengladbach – won 1-0 (Maghoma)

Sunday
Japan Highschool Selection – lost 2-1 (Oteh)
Fortuna Düsseldorf – won 1-0 (Bennetts)

Monday
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.

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March 25, 2016

Youth Update – March 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:

Saturday
PSV Eindhoven 10:30 local time, 9:30 UK time
Borussia Mönchengladbach, 17;00 local time, 16:00 UK time

Sunday
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.

International Call-Ups

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.

Under-18s

We have managed two wins and two defeats from our four matches in the Final Stage of the Under-18 Premier League.
U18 Premier League Table

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.

Under-21s

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:

U21 Premier League Table

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.

Musa Yahaya

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.
Musa Yahaya

Marcus Edwards

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.

Loanees

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.

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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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January 25, 2016

25/01/16 Liverpool U21s 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur U21s, Deva Stadium

Tom Glover (18)
Walker-Peters (18) Cameron Carter-Vickers (18) (c) Filip Lesniak (19) Anthony Georgiou (18)
Luke Amos (18) Anton Walkes (18)
Andros Townsend (24) Cy Goddard (18) Joe Pritchard (19)
Will Miller (19)

Subs:
Emmanuel Sonupe (19) for Joe Pritchard, 68.
Christian Maghoma (18) for for Will Miller, 77.
Christopher Paul (18) for Cy Goddard, 84.

Subs not used:
Harry Voss (19)

Liverpool: Bogdan (28), Virtue (18), Hart (19), Caulker (24), Enrique (30), Stewart (22), Ojo (18), Chirivella (18), Sinclair (19), Brannagan (19), Kent (19).

Spurs lined up with Kyle Walker-Peters and Cameron Carter-Vickers joined by midfielders Filip Lesniak and Anyhony Georgiou in the back-line. Luke Amos was the dedicated holder in midfield, with Anton Walkes playing as the 8. Andros Townsend started on the right, with Cy Goddard centrally and Joe Pritchard on the left. Will Miller was ‘leading the line’ – I use the phrase loosely.

Spurs were the much younger side, an average of two and a half years younger according to @thfcacademy.

Liverpool had two Premier League players at centre-back, up against a player in Will Miller who had barely played a string of matches for the Under-21s, and certainly not as a striker.

Spurs were missing Shayon Harrison, Nathan Oduwa (recently returned from Rangers), and Milos Veljkovic through injury, Dominic Ball, Grant Ward and Connor Ogilvie who were out on loan, and Josh Onomah and Harry Winks who were with the first team squad in Barcelona. Walker-Peters was available after his trial at Roda did not lead to a loan (apparently due to their long-ball approach!).

It was obvious from the start that the gegenpressing was not just a first-team tactic for Liverpool, as they pushed up quickly on Spurs’ back line and forced them to play long-balls out, a style the players are not accustomed to. Cameron Carter-Vickers was struggling as a result and played one long pass straight into touch and another cannoning into Walker-Peters’ legs after a ‘hospital pass’ from Anton Walkes.

Jerome Sinclair broke forward well for Liverpool but Carter-Vickers read the danger and shepherded him out before clearing for a throw.

Walkes and Amos were both a bit sloppy in possession in midfield in the early stages, which was not helping Spurs in their attempts to gain a foothold.

Georgiou played a nice ball to Miller who had dropped into midfield; he got it wide to Townsend, who cut in but tried to best one man too many. Liverpool were closing Townsend down well, getting bodies around him and causing him to take an extra touch.

Amos, meanwhile, was playing himself into the game nicely with some good passing, taking the ball in tight spaces and using it intelligently.

Liverpool nearly went ahead on 10 minutes as Ojo got the better of Georgiou and played Sinclair in on the inside of Lesniak; his cut-back just evaded the bodies in the box.

On 13 minutes, Ojo won a free kick off Georgiou on the Liverpool right and Kent’s left footed cross-cum-shot slipped right through the body of poor Tom Glover. 1-0 to the home side.

Amos got Spurs on the front foot with a nice pass to Pritchard, but he overhit his knock to Townsend – the story of Spurs’ night.

Glover played a very poor pass out to Georgiou which he just got away with, but Georgiou miscontrolled it; Spurs were their own worst enemy.

There was some nice interplay from Goddard and Townsend but Goddard’s pass towards Miller was too long.

Spurs’ first opening came on 23 minutes as Pritchard bundled his way into a shooting area but dragged his effort wide.

Sinclair’s effort was straight at Glover after Brannagan won the ball and found him well.

Georgiou found Pritchard, he danced across the edge of the box and teed up Goddard, but Liverpool players converged on him and ex-Spur Stewart blocked the effort.

Spurs then won a corner which Georgiou and Townsend managed to waste between them by trying to be too clever.

Amos did brilliantly to rob Virtue and, as he cut in readying himself to shoot, Virtue took him down right on the edge of the penalty area; he was lucky not to get booked. Townsend’s free-kick was the right idea, but hit straight at Bogdan.

Townsend won a foul from Hart after getting the ball from Goddard, and his free kick was taken towards the near post, with Caulker clearing it as Walkes lingered.

Spurs got Miller into the box in a good position but his cut-back was wasteful. Miller then lost the ball again after a good pass by Pritchard.

Goddard showed some lovely skill and quick feet to hold the ball under pressure and then get the ball wide as Spurs were having their best spell.

Townsend made a fantastic driving run down the right and his cut-back was perfect to Miller, but he lacked composure and smashed his shot over with his left foot when well placed.

Walker Peters held back Ryan Kent and somehow got away without a booking – this became more controversial later in the game, when Stewart picked up his second for a similar foul.

Georgiou did well to dispossess Ojo who was well positioned on the right of the box after a lovely pass from Enrique.

Amos nicked in to win possession again – something he did a lot throughout the half.

Walkes played an impressive first time pass out wide to Georgiou but he had strayed offside. At half-time, Spurs went in 1-0 down after a pretty dreadful half of football with very little quality on display. Liverpool, the more experienced side, were marginally better.

Spurs started the second half poorly, with Walker-Peters clipping Sinclair’s heels as he was about to run through – in a Premier League match, that would definitely have been a booking, and probably Walker-Peters’ second. Fortunately for Spurs, Kent’s free-kick came back off the wall.

Glover got himself into a mess once again when he took an unnecessary touch in the box and then struggled to clear his lines – he was eventually glad that Carter-Vickers mopped up the mess.

Amos did well to win the ball again but Walkes gave the ball straight back to Liverpool, playing a dreadful pass straight down the middle to Bogdan.

Amos fouled Stewart after a nice Stewart dummy and then committed another foul which saw him go into the book. Carter-Vickers defended Brannagan’s free kick well, but Liverpool persisted and Ojo crossed for Sinclair to tuck in, with Glover suspect once again. 2-0 and it looked like game over.

A couple of minutes later Amos committed another foul – he was walking a real tightrope.

Sinclair’s header went easily into Glover’s hands after a lovely cross from the impressive Ojo, before Kent nutmegged Walkes on the edge of the box but flashed his slot well wide.

On 65 minutes, Spurs strung together their best move of the half but Townsend lost possession on the left. Walker-Peters regained the ball on the opposite side but Pritchard overhit his cross wastefully.

Kent had a good run and shot but Glover got down to claim it at the second attempt, before Braanigan’s superb burst into the box ended with a shot which flashed just wide.

Sonupe came on for Pritchard on the left, and on 68 minutes he cut in off the line but his through ball went straight out for a goal kick.

A minute later, Walker-Peters exchanged passes with Townsend and went on a trademark mazy run; he got the ball into Miller who found Sonupe but he passed up a shooting opportunity and ended up with a corner which was hit too long by Townsend.

Walker-Peters then dribbled expertly out from the back and won a free kick, before Townsend showed some good skill and awareness to to cut inside and find Walker-Peters again.

Miller received the ball from Walker-Peters and turned Enrique well, but Stewart barged into him to take him down on the edge of the box, and received a booking. Townsend took the free kick and fired it just over.

A couple of minutes later, Stewart received his second yellow for dragging Walkes back – an easy decision for the referee.

Will Miller was replaced by Christian Maghoma. This meant that Lesniak moved into midfield (yay!) and Walkes moved up front (boo!).

Chris Paul replaced Cy Goddard in our final change, as we tried to press home the numerical advantage.

In truth we created little more, and Walkes’ horribly over hit pass for Sonupe summed up our attacking intent.

This was not a good performance from our side, and I am getting increasingly concerned about the way the team is being managed. Without wanting to single out individuals, there are a few players in this team that are simply not up to playing at this level, and Ehiogu’s unwillingness to recognise this has led to some good players 1. being played out of position and 2. losing confidence as a result

I will not be doing ratings this time, mostly as they won’t make nice reading. Suffice to say that Townsend tried hard but had little success, and Walker-Peters was his usual self in possession. He is a level above most of his teammates and I cannot see what this is doing for his development. He needs a loan move, even if it is to League Two or to Scotland, like Oduwa; Mark Warburton would handle him with care.

While we had a lot of players unavailable for various reasons (e.g. I imagine that the following team would have given Liverpool a much better game: McGee; Walker-Peters, Carter-Vickers, Ball, Ogilvie; Veljkovic, Winks; Ward, Onomah, Oduwa; Harrison), these consistently poor team selections are worrying.

It is time for us to give ourselves a platform by playing Carter-Vickers and Maghoma at the back, Lesniak (or Veljkovic, when fit) and Amos in deep midfield and to give Marcus Edwards and Keanan Bennetts more minutes behind Shayon Harrison (or, when he’s not available, Kazaiah Sterling).

Obviously I do not know the ins and outs of daily training – I can’t say who is and is not deserving of team spots based on that. But from watching the games that I have, and from speaking to people who watch every week, I cannot see Ugo Ehiogu being in charge next season as it stands, as too many players are going backwards.

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