September 13, 2016

10/09/16 Reading U18s 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur U18s, Hogwood Park

Brandon Austin (17)
Tariq Hinds (16) TJ Eyoma (16) Jonathan Dinzeyi (16) Jaden Brown (17)
Oliver Skipp (15) George Marsh (17) (c)
Reo Griffiths (16) Jack Roles (17) Keanan Bennetts (17)
Aramide Oteh (18)

Subs:
Tashan Oakley-Boothe (16) for Skipp, 67.
Pablo Gonzalez-Velasco (17) for Bennetts, 78.
Dylan Duncan (17) for Brown, 85.

Subs not used:

Joy Mukena (17)
Jonathan De Bie (16)

Reading U18s: Collings, Howe, Green, Shokunbi (Coleman 70), Odimayo, Philby (Wallace 80), Rollinson, Frost, House, Loader, Holsgrove (Medford-Smith HT).
Unused subs: Hillson, Denton.

Reading official site report
Spurs official site report

It was pouring down at Reading’s Hogwood Park for this midday kick-off. I left the house in a bit of a rush, and I grabbed one of those netted bags which I thought had an old waterproof jacket in. As I opened it on arrival I realised that it was a pair of waterproof trousers! Still, as I approached the pitch I realised that there were stands with seats (!) so I was able to sit with my notepad on my lap and a golf umbrella sheltering me from the downpour!

You may have seen that Kieran McKenna, our Under-18s coach, has moved on to Manchester United. The rumour I heard — and I stress that it is only a rumour — is that things were not going so well at Spurs, and that he was essentially let go by John McDermott. There on the touch-line on Saturday were McDermott, Chris Riley (our former Academy full-back, now ‘Academy Sports Scientist’) and someone with a training top labelled ‘AM’, who I didn’t recognise.

Spurs lined up with Brandon Austin in goal, Tariq Hinds at right-back, and the rest of the defence made up of England players — England Under-16 TJ Eyoma at centre-back, and England Under-18s and Jon Dinzeyi , partnering Eyoma, and Jaden Brown on the left. George Marsh captained the side and started in central midfield alongside Oliver Skipp (another england Under-16 player) — making his first appearance at this level — with Jack Roles just ahead. Roles and Skipp had license to bomb on, and it was unclear at times whether the intention was that this was 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, because Skipp was always a willing runner, and Roles also put a shift in going back towards his own goal. Keanan Bennetts was on the left, Reo Griffiths was on the right, and Aramide Oteh was up top.

The match started with Spurs in control and they won an early corner, which Roles lofted slightly too high for Eyoma to reach. Dinzeyi’s concentration was tested soon after when Oliver Skipp’s pass went astray and Dinzeyi had to go to ground to make an important interception and stop a Reading attack.

Marsh played a lovely angled pass out to Griffiths but he lost the ball on this occasion. Eyoma stepped out from the back and found Skipp, who returned the ball but was fouled in doing so. The referee pulled play back and Bennetts angled a free-kick into a great area, but it drifted all the way through the watching pack for a goal kick.

Griffiths and Roles and Bennetts linked a nice move together but Bennetts’ pass went between Spurs shirts in the box. The ball popped back out to Roles, who fed Griffiths to cross, but his attempt was blocked. Bennetts’ corner ran over everyone and out for a goal kick.

Roles intercepted a poorly hit goal kick, allowing Skipp to play an excellent first time pass to Bennetts. He played Oteh in, but the offside flag was raised.

Oteh was next to make a good interception high up the pitch, but Roles got his pass to Skipp slightly wrong and the move petered out.

Griffiths showed terrific pace to get onto a long kick from Austin, but after running half the length of the field he didn’t have the energy to put a cross in, and his attempt to find Oteh was undercooked.

Fifteen minutes in, Reading had a big chance, getting down their right and putting in a cross which their number 8, Tyler Frost didn’t connect with in the box.

Skipp picked up the ball in the middle of the park and made a terrific surge forward; he put too much weight on his pass to Griffiths, but the pace of Griffiths rescued it, and found Oteh. Oteh’s attempted ball to Roles was poor, though, and it again came to nothing.

Griffiths picked out Bennetts with a great pass but his touch was awful and the ball seemed to go straight through him. This led to a Reading counter-attack and, after Austin had saved an initial shot from Ben House, the ball rebounded back to him and went in off his ahead to make it 1-0 — I’m not sure he knew much about it.

Reading’s Frost took a free-kick which was deflected for a corner which Marsh dealt with at the near post.

Bennetts fashioned some space on the left, beating his man well and getting round him to cross, which was blocked by a hand right on the edge of the box. Bennetts took the kick with his right foot (he generally used his left for set pieces, but this was from the other side) and it was bent nearly perfectly towards the far post — nobody got a touch on it, though, and it drifted inches just wide.

Skipp overhit another through ball to Griffiths, before Bennetts took a corner from the right with his left foot. Frustrated he shouted to his teammates ‘why is no-one attacking the ball?’. To be fair, despite not playing especially well in open play, he had put in some excellent set piece deliveries.

Reading were doing a good job of cutting off passing lanes. Marsh picked up the ball in deep midfield and, with no easy passes on, was forced to angle a long ball to Griffiths out on the right. He got it wrong and it went behind Griffiths and out for a throw — to no complaints, as Marsh had nothing else on.

Jack Roles made it 1-1 when he got onto a Skipp pass and whipped a strong finish across the keeper into the far corner with his right foot. Skipp had surged forward well and this was a confidence-building moment for him.

Spurs were pressing high and having a spell in which they were relatively successful, and Reading were becoming frustrated. Reading had an awfully well-spoken centre-back (Harry Philby) who shouted out ‘we are playing ourselves into pressure’, and he was spot on — Oteh and Griffiths were keen to intercept and press high.

A lovely bit of play from Skipp on the right allowed him to get the ball to Oteh, who dummied the ball when well-placed in the box when he should have let fly. It ran through him to a defender and was cleared, but only to Roles. Roles lifted the ball intelligently over the foot of the defender who came to meet him, but couldn’t pick out a Spurs man from the crowd.

Reading made it 2-1 from the spot when their talented number 10, Dan Loader, sent Austin the wrong way. Eyoma had impeded House, but I didn’t get a good look at the incident from my vantage point.

Jonathan Dinzeyi once again made a brilliant intervention after Reading’s Tyler Frost had burst forward and found Dan Loader. Dinzeyi stayed strong, took control of the ball, and then went to ground when his ankles were clipped.

With five minutes to go until half-time, Griffiths had a firm shot from range which was parried. The rebound fell to Roles, but it squirmed under his foot. He then found Griffiths again, and his cross-shot was half-blocked, before the flag went up for offside as Oteh had strayed beyond the last man.

Roles found Giffiths with a cracking pass and he in turn played in Oteh, but his shot was blocked for a corner. Bennetts’ corner went just over the head of Dinzeyi, who had pushed in closer to the goal-mouth this time at the instruction of John McDermott.

A good low shot from the edge of the box by Loader made it 3-1 before half-time; Spurs gave him way too much time to get his shot away, and it went into the bottom corner across Austin after taking a slight deflection.

It was nearly game over just before half-time as the Reading right-back got forward to latch onto a pass from the influential Loader, and fed in a low cross which Marsh dealt with well. Marsh then blocked a shot from the subsequent corner.

It was a poor half from Spurs, with too many rushed passes and lack of considered possession. It felt like the aim was to get the ball in front of Griffiths, Bennetts and Oteh into the channels early, which is not a Spurs-like quality. When there are ball players like Marsh, Roles and Skipp on the pitch who are more comfortable playing possession football.

Tsaroulla and Sterling were with the substitutes warming up at half-time. A good sign as Sterling has been injured, I believe.

Soon after the second half had started, Austin spilled a shot — understandably in the very wet conditions — but he fortunately managed to gather it at the second attempt.

Roles drew groans from teammates with a poor ball to Bennetts, before Bennetts came close to picking out the far corner from the left-hand side.

Spurs did make it 3-2 when Griffiths went on another surging run and was fouled just inside the box, and Oteh scored from the spot via the post… as per this:

Bennetts went on a mazy run but was stopped with a good tackle having not released it sooner — a teammate shouted ‘pass man’, and I had to agree — this is a bad habit which Bennetts needs to shake off.

An excellent interception and pass from Skipp saw Spurs start another counter, he found Roles who came very close to putting Griffiths in.

Oteh held the ball up and played Roles in for a first-time shot which was blocked for a corner, but Roles wanted a penalty for handball. Marsh had an effort blocked from the corner, and another corner was subsequently taken short and Oteh headed the eventual cross wide when he was in a decent position and unmarked.

A good tackle and pass from Brown led to Roles being able to play Bennetts through, but he lost the ball again.

A matter of minutes after our second goal, we got an equaliser. Griffiths went on yet another purposeful run, and he finished with a thumping strike from the edge of the box. There was a bit of good fortune involved, as the aforementioned posh centre-back, Philby, slipped as Griffiths got within range, but at this point it was difficult to argue that Spurs didn’t deserve to be back in it. In fact, it looked like their tales were up and that they would go on to win the game.

However, the action went straight up the other end and our forward, Aramide Oteh, was forced to head off the line from a corner, as tall centre-back Akinwale Odimayo got on the end of the ball in. Odimayo had more luck a few minutes later as he stooped to head in a free-kick at the back post to make it 4-3 to the home side.

Skipp played a good pass up the line to Griffiths but he fouled Philby in trying to reach it, before Austin made a terrific save after a glorious touch from Loader had created the chance.

A great team move from Spurs saw Roles delay his shot just a little too long, causing it to be blocked.

16-year old Tashan Oakley-Boothe, who had appeared as a substitute for the Under-23s in a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Friday night, came on in midfield for the debutant Skipp.

Bennetts latched onto a slack pass across the back from Reading but took an awful touch and missed an opportunity to have a clear run on goal.

Roles dropped between the centre-backs to pick the ball up from Austin, and then pushed forward, linking well with Hinds to receive the ball in the middle of the park. He played a pass into the channel for Oteh, who had a one-on-one chance saved.

Spurs brought on Juan Pablo Gonzalez Velasco (known as Pablo) for Bennetts and, not long after his introduction, he was clearly fouled on the edge of the box — possibly inside — but nothing was given amidst protests.

Dylan Duncan came on for Brown for the final few minutes which prompted a re-shuffle; Hinds moved to left-back, Marsh came to centre-back, and Eyoma went to right-back, with Duncan pushed up on the right of midfield.

Austin saved a low free-kick and lost the wet ball again, but got up quickly to make himself big and block the follow-up as the game somewhat petered out for Spurs.

This was a disappointing result with some slack defensive play, and Tottenham got what their performance deserved. The second half saw improvement, but Reading were fairly resolute and stuck to their game plan. Spurs sometimes lacked patience and tried to play the killer ball, which led to the ball coming back at them time and again, and sometimes they were unable to cope with Reading’s counter-attacking. Having said that, Griffiths in particularly was a real threat going forward, and Oteh was a muscular presence who gave the Reading centre-backs a tough match. In many ways he reminds me of Kudus Oyenuga who, incidentally, now plays for Greenock Morton in the Scottish Championship.

Brandon Austin 6 – it wasn’t easy for him with a wet ball, and he did let a few squirm away from him. Overall he did pretty well.
Tariq Hinds 6 – couple of nice bursts forward, but he’s nowhere near as dynamic as, say, Kyle Walker-Peters. At this point, that’s probably a harsh comparison, as we were spoilt with KWP!
TJ Eyoma 6 – a laergely solid performance with a few blips.
Jonathan Dinzeyi 7 – made a lot of impressive recovery challenges and interceptions.
Jaden Brown 5 – struggled a bit and seemed to be targeted by Reading. Brown is an England player and is someone who I know people rave about — I seem to always catch his less impressive days.
Oliver Skipp 7 – Skipp is a great young player and whilst he didn’t quite find his passing range, he had a decent debut and I am excited to see more of him.
George Marsh 7 – tenacious as ever, Marsh never shirks a challenge and is happy to take the ball in tight areas to get a teammate out of trouble.
Jack Roles 7 – Roles has a tough ask, because he’s often picking the ball up on the half-turn with teammates screaming at him for the ball from both sides of the pitch. Unlike some of of his teammates, who were giving him a bit of grief, I felt he generally made good decisions and used the ball well. I would say that I would want him to take on his shots earlier — he could do with watching someone like Sigurdsson, who is the master of the early shot.
Reo Griffiths 8 – a real threat; his pace and physicality cannot be denied, but his technical ability was impressive too. I really like the look of this kid! Think Michail Antonio.
Aramide Oteh 7 – a big presence for Spurs who didn’t give the Reading defence any peace. He sometimes lacked finesse in the final third, but he tries his heart out.
Keanan Bennetts 6 – some really good set pieces, but a bit disappointing in open play; he needs to learn when to release the ball.

Tashan Oakley-Boothe – a fairly quiet cameo in midfield.
Pablo Gonzalez-Velasco – was unlucky not to win a penalty, and showed decent acceleration. Keen to see more!
Dylan Duncan – didn’t see too much of the ball in his short spell on the pitch.

Two more pieces of news! Firstly, Nya Kirby is seemingly about to join Crystal Palace, and it seems that we are in turn looking at their striker, Francis Baptiste

And finally, on Wednesday we play our first UEFA Youth League match against Monaco at Hotspur Way. The team selection will be interesting — the full squad is here. It is an Under-19 tournament with three overage players allowed.

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August 14, 2016

13/08/16 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 4-1 Southampton U18s, Hotspur Way

Brandon Austin (17)
TJ Eyoma (16) Jonathan Dinzeyi (16) Joy Mukena (17) Jaden Brown (17)
George Marsh (17) (c)
Sam Shashoua (17) Jack Roles (17) Tashan Oakley-Boothe (16) Keanan Bennetts (17)
Reo Griffiths (16)

Subs:
Phoenix Patterson (15) for Bennetts, 61.
Aramide Oteh (17) for Roles, 74.
Moroyin Omalabi (16) for Shashoua, 83.

Subs not used:
Nick Tsaroulla (17)
Alfie Whiteman (17)

Southampton Under-18s: Adam Parkes, Connor Langan, Aaron O’Driscoll (c), Harry Hamblin, Jake Vokins, Siph Mdlalose, Ben Rowthorn, Callum Slattery (Will Smallbone 54), Tyreke Johnson (Harlem Hale 75), Archie Thomas, Dan N’Lundulu.

Southampton official site report
Spurs official site report

Spurs formally announced their new intake of Academy players this week, with photos and biographies appearing for the following:

Jonathan Dinzeyi
Charles Freeman
Jamie Reynolds
Moroyin Omalabi
Timothy Joel (TJ) Eyoma
Tash Oakley-Boothe
Matthew Lock
Tariq Hinds
Reo Griffiths

The key name missing was Nya Kirby, who is still without a club having turned down a scholarship at Spurs. 16-year old Belgian goalkeeper Jonathan de Bie was not listed, amid rumours of his signing a three-year contract. It will be interesting to see where he fits in or whether the signing will be announced (much like the club took a long time to announce the signings of Miloš Veljković and Nabil Bentaleb).

Four of the first years started on Saturday morning as the team got off to a flier against a decent Southampton outfit.

David Pleat and Paul Mitchell were in attendance on an early afternoon which flitted between overcast and sunny. Keiran McKenna was seemingly not on the Spurs bench, but John McDermott was a big enough presence to make up for his absence.

Spurs lined up with Brandon Austin in goal, behind a back four of TJ Eyoma (normally a centre-back) at right-back, Jon Dinzeyi and Joy Mukena in the centre and Jaden Brown at left back. George Marsh seemed to be the dedicated midfield anchor, with Jack Roles and Tashan Oakley-Boothe ahead; Sam Shashoua and Keanan Bennetts started wide, and Reo Griffiths — prolific last year in the Under-16s — was up front.

Griffiths’ first impact came when he was clearly fouled when playing a cushioned first time pass into the path of Bennetts, who won a corner. This was a facet of the forward’s play throughout, preferring to try to play forward first time or to turn and run, rather than to hold the ball up and wait for support.

Brown advanced up the left and sent in a dangerous ball between defence and goalkeeper, but it trickled away for a goal kick.

Dinzeyi began his battle with the big Southampton forward, Dan N’Lundulu, when he was penalised for a foul — a decision which might have gone the other way had the referee spotted the holding. Tyreke Johnson’s free-kick was headed away by Joy Mukena.

Mukena’s slack pass into midfield put us under pressure, but he got back into position in the nick of time to make up for his error.

A lovely pass from Roles to Griffiths over the top tested his pace but, having got on the end of it, he tried to beat his man, rather than taking the safe option of laying it off to the supporting runners.

Sam Shashoua tricked his way past his man to launch a counter and was cynically fouled by Callum Slattery, who got a talking to from the referee.

Southampton were pressing high and putting our centre-backs under pressure, and it showed. Mukena gave the ball away again, this time chipping it to a Southampton player, as nerves started to show.

A nice one-touch passing move from Spurs led to Bennetts getting into a decent crossing position, but his effort was blocked.

Spurs took the lead when George Marsh played a high pass over the defence; Reo Griffiths latched onto it and was brought down, giving Shashoua the chance to score from the spot, which he didn’t pass up.

Roles showed good strength and determination to hold off three challenges in midfield to hang onto the ball, but soon after sent Mukena chasing after a poor pass which ran out for a throw.

Dinzeyi then gave the ball away and was rescued by his centre-back partner, Mukena, before Dinzeyi did aim a well-flighted long ball forward which Brown couldn’t quite get to.

It should have been 1-1, but N’Lundulu put a chance wide on the turn when in space.

Oakley-Boothe began to drop deep to collect the ball, as Southampton’s pressing began to take its toll. John McDermott wanted the players to move the ball more sharply, repeatedly shouting ‘quicker, quicker’ from the touchline.

Spurs made it 2-0 when Jack Roles’ low shot from the edge of the box was spilled by the Southampton goalkeeper, Adam Parkes. It was an unfortunate error, but reward for Roles’ willingness to test him.

Joy Mukena ventured forward to join the attack and played a wonderful slide-rule pass inside the full-back allowing Shashoua to strike a shot wide across the keeper from a tight angle on the right.

Eyoma made a great interception, latching onto a ball played to the Southampton left, but then gave the ball away sloppily.

Then Keanan Bennetts and George Marsh showed that they were switched on defensively to shepherd an attack into a safe area, with Bennetts seeing it out for a goal kick.

Austin was quick off his line to take the ball off the feet of South African winger, Siph Mdlalose, as he looked to latch on to a through ball.

A great one-two between Roles and Griffiths saw the latter nearly get onto the ball in the six-yard box, but it just evaded him, and then Bennetts crossed too close to the goalkeeper.

George Marsh showed his battling qualities by almost single-handededly forcing an attack out of the box follwing a corner, and then Dinzeyi made a terrific saving challenge after Mukena had been robbed in the box after dallying.

Griffiths held the ball up and won a throw on the right, which was an encouraging sign — he will need to do more of that.

Brown stopped Mdlalose in his tracks with an excellent challenge, and the corner from Johnson forced Austin to punch out for a throw-in.

Bennetts broke forward again for Spurs and found Oakley-Boothe, but he checked and tried an expansive pass to Brown, which he put too much on.

It amused me to hear a Southampton player shouting ‘let’s engage the ball’, which sounded like something he’d overheard from his coaches in training; amongst plenty of effing and blinding, it stood out!

Spurs took a 2-0 lead into half-time and deserved the lead.

Oakley-Boothe found Griffiths and he cut back for Shashoua, who couldn’t connect with a shot. It nearly ran for Eyoma, approaching at the far post, but a defender nipped in.

A clever pass from Griffiths put Oakley-Boothe clear, and he hit the by-line and returned the favour with a fantastic cross, but Griffiths got his feet in a mess and couldn’t put it away at the back post.

Shashoua won a free kick on the edge of the box with great footwork, and he took the kick himself. He shot low but his weak effort was saved.

Griffiths made it 3-0 when finishing a really classy team goal, which all started with some terrific play from George Marsh, and ended with Bennetts playing Griffiths in and the ball being slid beyond the keeper. Top stuff!

Three minutes later Southampton pulled a goal back when their impressive substitute William Smallbone found the bottom corner with a left-footed effort.

Griffiths had a chance to make it 4-1, but snatched at a shot with his left foot when a bit of composure might have seen him score.

15-year old substitute Phoenix Patterson nearly scored in the six-yard box, but needed to lift the ball and instead saw his effort saved low down.

Some great battling from Shashoua on the right saw him lose the ball when being fouled (which the referee didn’t spot), before showing strength and tenacity to win it back with a strong challenge. As he strode away with the ball he was fouled again, and this time the referee pulled back play and admonished the Southampton left-back, Jake Vokins, who told him to eff off!

Shashoua and Patterson linked well to set Griffiths free but it came to little.

Goalkeeper Brandon Austin was required to make a superb save, diving full stretch to his left to prevent a curling effort from Archie Thomas sneaking in at the back post.

Second-year forward, Aramide Oteh, came on for Roles, with Shashoua moving into the middle and Griffiths switching to the right.

Oakley-Boothe went to ground making a challenge to prevent a Southampton shooting opportunity, giving away a free-kick and earning himself a ticking off.

Just as midfield control seemed to have been won by Southampton, holding player Moroyin Omolabi replaced Shashoua to give the midfield some protection for the final few minutes.

Spurs had a wonderful attack on the right when Eyoma and Griffiths liked up effectively to see Grifiths drive into the box and beat his man, but his two crosses were cleared.

Spurs did make it 4-1, though, when Oakley-Boothe played a give-and-go with Griffiths before smashing into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

4-1 was a slightly flattering scoreline, and there were various points where Southampton could have got back into the match. It was an encouraging display, though, with some good individual performances. Some of the ratings below could easily have gone up or down a notch and this was just my perspective. For example, Eyoma was somewhere between a 7 and an 8 for me, Roles and Shashoua were somewhere between a 6 and a 7, with Marsh just a bit better than both overall. Griffiths got a goal and three assists, so you could definitely make a case for an 8, but his overall game was slightly inconsistent (though I do really like the look of him).

Brandon Austin 7 – was nice and alert when he needed to be and made one excellent diving safe. Will have his work cut out this time to get regular game time with Alfie Whiteman his competition.
TJ Eyoma 8 – a very encouraging performance, in which he defended well and also showed ability on the ball. There was one brilliant bit of play in particular which saw him protect the ball in midfield in an almost Dembele-like way.
Jon Dinzeyi 6 – had some nervous moments in possession but did make some very timely interventions.
Joy Mukena 5 – like his centre-back partner he looked edgy at times, and he ended up losing the ball in dangerous areas. Will need to improve on the ball as the season progresses.
Jaden Brown 6 – got up and down the line well, but needed a bit more quality in the final third.
George Marsh 7 – a typically busy, industrious performance. He really reminds me of Scott Parker.
Sam Shashoua 6 – a tidy showing but he did drift out at times. Shashoua is highly-rated, and has trained with the first team, so is one to keep an eye on.
Jack Roles 6 – there were times last season where he looked a little lightweight, but a really solid tackle in midfield showed his bravery and strength. I like the way he keeps it simple and also his ability to time a run into the box.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe 6 – not his best all-round game today, but the late goal showed what a big talent he is. I am very excited to see how he progresses this season.
Keanen Bennetts 5 – Some good early moments, but he drifted out of the match. I’m expecting more from him this season, as he has all of the physical attributes that he needs to be highly effective at this level.
Reo Griffiths 7 – an encouraging match in which he showed a real willingness to run and work for the team. The obvious area for improvement is his work with his back to goal, and this will come over time — he’s a converted winger, so it’s natural that that is not refined at this point. A goal and three assists!

Phoenix Patterson – fascinating to see him included on the bench, and I hope that this is the first of many appearances. See the video below for an insight into his ability.
Aramide Oteh – a bit of a battering ram of a forward, who could be useful in certain circumstances.
Moroyin Omalabi – my first look at him in the flesh, and he looked nice and composed.

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June 30, 2016

Spurs Youth Update – June 2016

At the beginning of the summer I was expecting numerous Development Squad players to be released in order to clear the decks for more promising younger players. This was a little hasty, and I’ll explain why.

In a recent player update, the club confirmed that young professional Emmanuel Sonupe was released at the end of his contract, and that Under-18s Armani Daly, Charlie Hayford and Chris Paul were released at the end of their scholarships. Paul has signed a one-year professional contract at QPR (congratulations to him), whilst the others — as of today — have not yet found new clubs.

Next year, as well as the Under-18 Premier League and the Under-21 Premier League, our youth teams from Under-21 down will participate in at least one extra competition.

The 32 senior clubs that qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, as well as the 32 domestic youth champions are all entered into the ‘UEFA Youth League‘, which is a sort of Youth Champions League. This is a competition for Under-19 players, and for next season players are eligible to play in the competition if they were born on or after 1 January 1998. To give you an idea of what this means for Spurs, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kyle Walker-Peters and Shayon Harrison miss the cut, but Zenon Stylianides, Shilow Tracey, Kazaiah Sterling and Marcus Edwards are all eligible.

The rules also allow up to three players born on or after 1 January 1997 (i.e. three players a year older) to be included on the list of 40 players, so long as they fulfil various other conditions.

The regulations also state ‘Any player who is fielded in three or more UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League matches (as of the group stages of those competitions) in the course of the 2016/17 season ceases to be eligible to play in the UEFA Youth League’. So we will need to be a little clever with the three overage players that we register; if there is any chance of Carter-Vickers, Walker-Peters and/or Harrison playing first-team football, there is no point in registering them.

Chelsea won this competition last year, and in doing so they played 10 matches, so it’s fair to say that it’s a tournament with a substantial number of games.

In addition to this, it is likely that we will enter the English Football League Trophy, formerly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (but currently without a sponsor for the forthcoming season).

For a one-year trial, the tournament has been adapted so that as well as all League One and League Two clubs, it will include 16 category one academy sides.

The format will see 16 regional groups of four teams where the top two progress. I believe that this means it would be an 11-match run to the final consisting of: six group matches, Round of 32, Round of 16, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, Final.

As a slight aside, this change has not gone down well with fans of League One and Two clubs, with the Football Supporters’ Federation recently releasing a statement saying that academy sides entering “undermines the integrity of the competition”. Personally, I wouldn’t be happy if a cash-rich Academy side potentially stood between my club and a Wembley appearance/prize money.

It is — as yet — unclear as to whether Spurs will enter this competition, and there are reasons not to, as this article by a Liverpool fan site underlines:

These reasons include not being able to play anyone registered in the first team squad of 25 players, and that all games are to be played during the international breaks.

Therefore, Liverpool – and other Premier League clubs – will lose all their youth internationals as well as anyone in and around the first-team squad.

That would leave the Reds with a handful of players, plus U17 or schoolboys – being played up against full first-teams of players aged 10 years older than them.

Had the competition been more thought out and planned correctly, it would have been a good opportunity for Liverpool’s young players to get competitive football.

If, as expected, Spurs participate in this tournament as well as the three others, the load will be significant for our Academy, and so it quickly becomes obvious why we have not shed what I consider to be the ‘deadwood’.

By my calculations, we have just under 40 players to cover these tournaments; that does not include the new academy intake (which should be somewhere between nine and twelve players), nor does it take into account loans and first-team promotions.

As I mentioned in a previous article, Spurs have very clearly changed their loan policy over the past few years, with numbers dropping off significantly from around 30 loan deals eight years ago, to roughly a third of that now – see The Spurs Report’s piece on this for more detailed information. If we assume that there will be between five and eight loans at any one time, that narrows the pool. If, as the Liverpool site said, the EFL Trophy matches are played during international breaks, that pool is narrowed further — we have a fairly high proportion of youth internationals.

Given the late return of players from the European Championships, we can expect the youngsters on the fringes of the first team squad (Carter-Vickers, Walker-Peters, Harry Winks), plus the returning loanees (Grant Ward, Dominic Ball, Connor Ogilvie) to be to be involved in the early first-team pre-season friendlies, and we have seen in the past how players can use that opportunity to put themselves in the first-team squad picture.

It is going to be very tough to navigate through four competitions with a relatively small squad of players to select from, and I think there will be a number of repercussions from this:

  1. A negative: I don’t think we will perform particularly well in the English Football League Trophy or Under-21 Premier League, with an added caviat that we might do better if next year’s second year Academy players are heavily involved (and that is tricky, as a number of them will be playing Under-18 and UEFA Youth League games). A proportion of the players that played a lot of the Under-21 games last season are not good enough to break through to the first team, and are not showing enough signs of progress.
  2. A positive: I expect one or two players to make an unexpected breakthrough. There are players who will get exposure to more game-time at a higher level than they otherwise might have had, and who just needed that chance to have a run in the team (be that Under-18, Under-19 or Under-21).
  3. A final thought: perhaps we will sign some Under-21 players to help bolster the squads at different age groups. Or perhaps we’ll see us borrow players, like when we saw Ipswich’s Kundai Benyu play in the NextGen Series with us in May.

In the coming days we should have confirmation of the new academy intake and news on whether we are participating in the EFL Trophy; it will be interesting to see if Spurs release any type of statement on this, which might inform us to how this will be managed.

Interesting times of change ahead in the world of youth football.

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May 14, 2016

NextGen Series Update

The reboot of the NextGen Series is ongoing in Amsterdam this weekend, with Spurs sending a squad which included an Ipswich Town player!

As Those Were The Days explain, it is not yet clear whether Kundai Benyu is on a trial, or whether Ipswich have just let us borrow him to make up the numbers.

Today we won our opening match against PSV Eindhoven, with a goal from Joe Pritchard deciding the tie.

You can watch the match here (it’s only two 25 minute halves), or you can read the report here.

The team was as follows:

Whiteman (17)
Walker-Peters (19) Maghoma (18) Walkes (19) Muscatt (18)
Lesniak (20) Benyu (18)
J Pritchard (19) Miller (19) Goddard (19)
Harrison (18)

Subs:
Sterling (17) for Pritchard, 46.
Duncan (17) for Goddard, 46.
Stylianides (18) for Miller, 50.

Tomorrow we play twice – at 11:00 (10:00 UK time) vs Ajax Cape Town, and at 16:00 (15:00 UK time) vs Right to Dream, from Ghana.

Meanwhile, our Under-16s are participating in the Geneva Cup in Switzerland. Today we drew 0-0 with Atlético Madrid, lost 2-1 to Swiss side Servette and won 5-1 against Meyrin FC (another Swiss side).

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May 3, 2016

End of Season Loanee Review

As I was collecting information for my weekly Fighting Cock Podcast youth update, I put out a call for club-specific info about our loanees. The responses were nuggets of gold, so I decided to form a blog from the bulk of them. And so, without further ado…

DeAndre Yedlin – Sunderland (Premier League)

Grant Ward – Rotherham United (Championship)

Or should I say ‘double award winner’ Grant Ward?

Paul Davis of the Sheffield Star sent me this fantastic run-down:

There are flaws in Grant Ward’s game … but not many.

The midfield youngster who celebrated his 21st birthday during his season-long loan at AESSEAL New York Stadium was a key figure in Rotherham United’s successful fight for Championship survival.

He found himself out of favour early in his stay during the reign of Steve Evans, but his pace and direct running earned the admiration of successor Neil Redfearn who picked him for virtually every game.

“He gets you up the pitch. Very quickly,” Redfearn said.

Neil Warnock duly replaced Redfearn and Ward’s dynamism and workrate quickly won over the veteran boss.

Ward’s final ball still needs working on, while learning to give a quick, easy pass would add to his armoury.

But, in terms of attacking threat on the right flank, he was up there all season with the best in the division.

He was given a central role at times but produced his best performances out wide where he was always bold enough to take on his man and quick enough to usually leave him for dead.

He also came up with the Millers’ goal of the season, a thunderous 30-yard effort in front of the Sky cameras against Burnley.

Grant Ward. Honorary Miller. Rotherham fans are very sorry to see him go.

Dominic Ball – Rangers (Scottish Championship)

From @IbroxBuzz:

His best position is DM, loves a tackle, quite physical. His use of the ball and general footballing mind seem to be his best attributes. At centre back he really suits our style of play due to composure. For a young boy he’s very vocal, can tell he’s come from an academy with high standards, talking more experienced pros through games and his media skills are top class. Would 100% take him back in a heartbeat, definitely has a future in the game.

And from Jason from Rangers Report:

Warburton always seemed to rely on Ball whenever a big match came around, not so much in defence but as a holding midfielder. Always came through with solid performances. Did I see anything that screams – “here’s a future EPL player”? No. But I also didn’t see anything that showed that he couldn’t play at that level. Given his role (& the way Rangers dominated) he wasn’t under much pressure defensively. As much as I’d love to see him back at Ibrox – he’d probably be better suited playing going on loan with an English Championship side to better evaluate his future value for Spurs.

Thanks to those gentlemen for the terrific insight!

Federico Fazio – Sevilla (La Liga)

lol

Alex Pritchard – West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)

So, I started with the players who finished the season still on loan. And I wanted to get this out while it was current… but I will revisit this and get something together for the rest of this season’s loanees:

Kenny McEvoy – Stevenage, York City (League Two) NB: now joined York permanently.
Shaq Coulthirst – Wigan (League One)
Harry Voss – Stevenage (League Two)
Christian Maghoma – Yeovil Town (League Two)
Nathan Oduwa – Rangers (Scottish Championship), Colchester United (League One)
Connor Ogilvie – Stevenage (League Two)
Ryan Loft – Braintree Town (National League)

A final thought – Spurs have very clearly changed their loan policy over the past few years, with numbers dropping off significantly from around 30 loan deals eight years ago, to roughly a third of that now – see The Spurs Report’s piece on this for more detailed information. Loans seem to be used for specific reasons now – 1. sink or swim (Oduwa), 2. try before you buy (McEvoy) , or 3. too good an opportunity to turn down (Ward). A fourth category might be ‘to test the player’s temperament’. It will be fascinating to see how this is developed next season too.

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#Spurs youngster Brooklyn Lyons-Foster was a 52nd minute sub for the England U17s. https://t.co/oCima7MRfZ
11 hours ago