September 6, 2015

05/09/15 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 0-3 Fulham U18s, Hotspur Way

Tom McDermott (17)
Charlie Hayford (17) George Marsh (16) Jon Dinzeyi (15) Nick Tsaroulla (16)
Dylan Duncan (16) Zenon Stylianides (17)
Armani Daly (17) Sam Shashoua (16) Keanan Bennetts (16)
Ryan Loft (17)

Nya Kirby (15) for Dylan Duncan
Tashan Oakley-Boothe (15) for Armani Daly
Aremide Oteh (15) for Keanan Bennetts

Sub not used:
Brandon Austin (16)

Due to various players being away on international duty (Sterling, Edwards, Whiteman, Roles and presumably Paul and Owens) or injured (Tanganga), Spurs were able to give opportunities to younger players and fringe players in this match.

Stylianides and Loft provided the most experience in an otherwise youthful team, and Charlie Hayford – who started life as a right winger but was converted to central midfield – played at right-back. Under-16 player Jon Dinzeyi partnered George Marsh (usually a midfielder) at centre-back in the absence of Joy Mukena (also injured?).

Spurs had the first shot at goal, when Hayford’s free-kick was curled wide with less than five minutes gone.

Loft then broke forward and was half-tackled with the ball falling to Bennetts, but the keeper rushed out to block him.

Bennetts turned Fulhams’ Marlon Fossey very easily and was hauled down – the referee giving the benefit of the doubt and not showing a yellow card.

Fulham had a great chance when a cross from their right nearly fell kindly, but Hayford and Marsh managed to shepherd the ball away between them.

Bennetts skipped past his man and was fouled, the ball falling to Daly who had a shot saved by the fingertips of Taye Ashby-Hammond. Shashoua’s corner didn’t beat the first man.

Loft had a vicious strike from distance which went over the bar, before Fulham took the lead. Duncan lost the ball in midfield, and Dennis Adeniran played the ball through to Joshua Walker who showed terrific pace to get beyond Dinzeyi, and he chipped McDermott beautifully.

Dylan Duncan showed nice, quick feet to drive across the edge of the box, but was fouled in the process. The ball broke for Sam Shashoua who took a bad touch, it came to Bennetts but he skewed a shot wide with his left foot.

George Marsh won the ball, Spurs broke through Stylianides who cut in and drove wide of the near post with his right foot.

Fulham’s Adebayo put an opportunity over from a set piece with Tom McDermott prone on the ground – Humphreys had headed Thorsteinsson’s free-kick back across goal and McDermott took a whack when competing for the second ball.

Loft headed Hayford’s cross wide and then Ravi Shamsi’s corner was headed away by Loft as the first half came to a close.

Shashoua was booked for dissent a few minutes into the second half, before Keanan Bennetts had another good chance at the far post from Daly’s cross. With Loft just unable to climb high enough to reach the ball, it fell to Bennetts, but he hit the side netting.

Walker burst through our defence soon after but McDermott was out quickly to repel his shot.

Hayford’s ball from deep was attacked by Bennetts but it just went over.

Fulham won a penalty when Bennetts fouled Dennis Adeniran right on the edge of the box, but Walker’s spot kick hit the outside of the post with McDermott diving the wrong way.

Dinzeyi fouled Thorsteinsson out on the left touchline and got a talking to from the referee, before Hayford drove over the bar with his weaker left foot at the other end.

Thorsteinsson crossed for Humphreys but he smashed his shot wide at the near post.

Nya Kirby came on for his first appearance at Under-18 level, replacing Duncan and slotting into the middle of midfield.

His first involvement saw him play the ball to Hayford and then nearly get on the end of Hayford’s near-post cross. Hayford’s corner was lofted up and easily claimed by the goalkeeper.

Hayford and Humphreys had a bit of a falling out on the right when Hayford complained to the referee after a particularly strong sliding tackle from the enormous Humphreys, which led to the Fulham man giving him a rather sinister ‘watch out for the next one’ warning in full-on Northern (they hugged it out after the match).

It was 2-0 when Spurs lost possession and Ryan Sessegnon used his pace to get past Hayford and crossed for Thorsteinsson to head home. McDermott seemed to get two hands to the ball but didn’t keep it out.

Bennetts and Daly were replaced by Oakley-Boothe and Oteh but the game was out of reach when Humphreys made it 3-0; he had space to turn in the box and drove a shot right through McDermott after Spurs lacked numbers at the back post from a cross.

Humphreys then hit the outside of the post from a Thorsteinsson free-kick.

Oakley-Boothe went on a surging run forward and played the ball to Oteh on the edge of the box. He held it up and returned the favour to Kirby, who got a shot away, but Ashby-Hammond blocked it with his legs.

Tom McDermott saved a one-on-one before Humphreys put a free-kick wide.

Kirby had our final chance when he hit a fierce drive at goal after an excellent Shashoua turn, but it was easily held by Ashby-Hammond.

Spurs found a physically imposing Fulham side difficult to deal with, and couldn’t get past a very solid centre-back pairing who also had a lot of protection from midfield. We struggled to control possession with two central midfielders who seem to be more confident driving forward with the ball – Owens would have probably helped in that regard.

Our team was younger, smaller, and a lot more naive than Fulham’s, but they will have learned lessons from this match. Jon Dinzeyi at centre-back was our outstanding player & Marsh did well filling in at the back as well. 3-0 seemed harsh on the pair of them, as they largely did a good job at repelling Fulham – our issues were mainly in midfield.

My ratings look a little low this time out, but my caveat is that I’m prepared to use the full 1-10 range! So a 5 is really just a little under-par (5.5 being in the middle).

McDermott 4 – this was not a good game for the young goalkeeper, but he will rarely have come up against a team as physically strong as this.
Hayford 6 – had a tough match against some talented Fulham players. He kept working hard for the team, though, and showed some ability. At one point he cushioned a firmly hit McDermott pass beautifully over a defender on the volley, but it wasn’t read by Daly – this was the story of his day.
Tsaroulla 6 – had to be constantly on his toes against the talented Thorsteinsson, and perhaps didn’t get as much support as he needed.
Marsh 7 – read the game well and tried to compete physically despite clearly being at a disadvantage in this regrd.
Dinzeyi 8 – a player that has only come onto my radar recently, but I am told that he has been at Spurs for at least six years, starting as central midfielder and then moving to the wing. Last season he was predominantly a centre-back and this is the poition he has settled on. Tall, athletic, good on the ball. I like him a lot.
Stylianides 5 – captained the side but couldn’t get the team playing fluently. There was a lot of pressure on him as one of the eldest players in the team, and perhaps that got to him a little.
Duncan 5 – had some good touches, but had a tough time against an ultra-physical team.
Daly 5 – was often on the periphery of the action and struggled to get the better of the excellent Sessegnon.
Shashoua 6 – quick feet and a quick brain. Really looking forward to seeing more of him – an obvious talent who suffered a little against strong opposition.
Bennetts 5 – will have been disappointed not to get on the score sheet as he had a few chances, but it wasn’t really his day.
Loft 5 – I thought that his more robust, old-fashioned style might have been useful against two enormous centre-backs, but they largely negated his threat.

Kirby – a lively cameo which will show the coaches that he’s ready for early promotion to this level.
Oakley-Boothe – another massive talent. I cannot wait to see more of him over the next few years.
Oteh – difficult to judge him on this showing, but he showed good strength on the edge of the box on a couple of occasions.

As a slight aside, ex-QPR and Watford centre-back ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall was also there watching the match with a young child – perhaps his kid is in the Spurs Academy, or maybe he has ties to Fulham?

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August 15, 2015

Loanee Update – August 2015

Pre-season is over, the scouting has been done and loan moves are starting to happen now. This week we’ve gone from having one player out on loan to having five:

Grant Ward – Rotherham United (Championship) – January
Nathan Oduwa – Rangers (Scottish Championship) – season
Dominic Ball – Rangers (Scottish Championship) – season
Shaq Coulthirst – Wigan (League One) – October
Connor Ogilvie – Stevenage (League Two) – 14th September

Grant Ward – Rotherham United (Championship)

Ward has joined Rotherham United and has already made a couple of appearances. He was withdrawn from a central midfield role at half-time on his debut against MK Dons, as Rotherham struggled in general. The Star wrote that Ward had ‘struggled to impose himself’. He then came on to play 17 minutes at on the right against Cambridge United in the League Cup.

Having done so well in League One with Coventry City last season, Ward will be looking to be a mainstay of the Rotherham team in the Championship. Should he do so, he’ll have essentially done what Alex Pritchard did last season, but a year sooner in his development.

Nathan Oduwa & Dominic Ball – Rangers (Scottish Championship)

Mark Warburton has used his relationship with Spurs to acquire two youngsters who are ready to make the next step. As a Spurs fan and co-founder of the NextGen Series (which Spurs participated in) Warburton has a real appreciation of Spurs’ academy, and worked wonders with Pritchard last season.

Oduwa and Ball both played League Two football last year and – whilst the quality of the Scottish Championship might not be substantially better – the experience of playing in front of 51,000 fans every other week will benefit them enormously.

Nathan Oduwa will get Rangers fans off their seats. He is a very tricky customer, possessing terrific close control and dribbling ability. He sometimes appears to not be in full control of the ball, but will then somehow emerge from the tightest of spaces with it still at his feet. His finishing certainly needs some honing, but there are not many 19-year olds that are complete players. Oduwa mostly plays on the left wing, but could do a job as a number 10 or even a number 9 if called upon.

Dominic Ball is a robust centre-back who is competent in possession. He undoubtedly has ability and reads the game well for a 20-year old. My concern is that he can be a little rash when defending – sometimes committing himself too early in an effort to be proactive. He will come across some wily players and if he can play a full season, it’ll do him the world of good.

It’s easy to turn your nose up at our players going to the Scottish Championship, but you must remember that matches are only one part of a loan move – players are training all week, and so the coaches that they are with must be of sufficient quality to have an impact. Mark Warburton is a fantastic coach for our young players to learn from (as we saw with Pritchard last year) and the Spurs hierarchy clearly have enormous faith in him.

Ball revealed in this interview that he trained with Warburton when he played for Watford between the ages of 11 and 15, and that will certainly make the transition easier for him.

Shaq Coulthirst – Wigan (League One)

Coulthirst has clocked up 39 appearances League Two appearances across four clubs, scoring eight goals. He now has an opportunity to progress to League One.

His first loan was actually in League One (for Leyton Orient) and he scored on his debut (having come off the bench). But he was sent back to Spurs at the end of that one-month loan having played just seven minutes. 18 months on, it’s an opportunity for him to test himself again and see whether he now has the physicality and the ability to make an impression.

Coulthirst is a whole-hearted player – a trier, if you will – and if he fails to cut it, it certainly won’t be down to his attitude. He seems to want to make it as a central striker, but I feel that wide left is his best option – I am not sure that his finishing and hold up play are good enough to justify him playing up top.

Connor Ogilvie – Stevenage (League Two)

19-year old Connor Ogilvie has made his first loan move, and will be working under former Spurs great, Teddy Sheringham.

Ogilvie was a real favourite of mine at Under-18 level. He played at both left-back and centre-back, but was most impressive on the left, where he had the opportunity to overlap; he was a genuine creative influence from there. His eye-catching performances in 2013/14 saw him drafted into the first team for Europa League trips to Tromso and Benfica, and he was obviously well liked by the England coaching set-up too – he won 15 caps at U16 and U17 level.

Since stepping up to the U21s, though, he seems to have stagnated a little. He made 16 appearances last season, but in the games that I saw he seemed a lot more reserved than I had become used to. Whether that was a lack of confidence, or a slight struggle against older, stronger players I am unsure. I was, however, very encouraged by Ogilvie’s showing in the Tottenham Hotspur XI’s 2-0 win over Stevenage at The Lamex Stadium, and he obviously caught Sheringham’s eye too.

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August 1, 2015

01/08/15 Stevenage 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur XI, The Lamex Stadium

Tom Glover (17)
Kyle Walker-Peters (18) Dominic Ball (19) Cameron Carter-Vickers (17) (c) Connor Ogilvie (19)
Filip Lesniak (19) Milos Veljkovic (19)
Emmanuel Sonupe (19) Ismail Azzaoui (17) Nathan Oduwa (19)
Shayon Harrison (18)

Cy Goddard (18)
Luke Amos (18)
Kenny McEvoy (20)
Anton Walkes (18)

Unused subs:
Harry Voss (18)
Christian Maghoma (17)

It was a dry but cloudy afternoon at the Lamex – the home of Stevenage as well as Spurs’ Under-21 team (or ‘Development Squad’, as the club tends to refer to it).

Spurs’ side was made up mostly of the players that travelled to Ploufragan in France for the recent National Under-21 Tournament, in which we finished fourth (although only lost one match in normal time). As well as the players from that squad we fielded Australian goalkeeper Tom Glover, who was with the first team in Denver. Cameron Carter-Vickers was captain for the day.

Stevenage are now managed by an early hero of mine, Teddy Sheringham, and I was hoping that it would be clear that he is trying to develop an attractive style of football – more on that later.

Stevenage played something between a 4-5-1 and a 4-1-4-1 with a big number 9 (who I think was Brett Williams) up front and ex-Spurs youth players Dean Parrett (8) and Charlie Lee (10) in the centre of midfield behind him. 18-year old Dipo Akinyemi started wide on the left. Lee captained their side.

Spurs started in the typical 4-2-3-1, with two defensive midfielders sitting in front of a strong centre-back pairing. Shayon Harrison led the line, with Ismail Azzaoui in behind him. Nathan Oduwa – who has impressed in pre-season for the first team – played on the left.

As the players started to settle into a rhythm, Milos Veljkovic looked to go long over the top to Harrison, but just over-hit his pass. Cameron Carter-Vickers was confident enough early on to step and play the big Stevenage number 9 offside – leading by example. On 3 minutes, there was a wonderful switch of play from Veljkovic to Connor Ogilvie at left-back, although his cross was blocked.

Stevenage signalled their intentions to play physically when a nudge on Dominic Ball from the number 9 sent him sprawling into the hoardings – Ball had got ahead of him easily and didn’t complain at the unnecessary treatment he received.

The first opening of the game came when Kyle Walker-Peters showed some neat footwork to beat his man, played a pass to Azzaoui who found him again with a lovely return pass into the inside right channel. Walker-Peter’s cross went all the way across the box and Ogilvie fouled his man at the back post in trying to meet it.

With six minutes gone, Ogilvie cleared his second ball of the day straight over the stand and out of the ground!

A minute later it was 1-0 to Spurs. Oduwa made his first serious surge forward – he burst through three players and got a low shot away with his left foot on the angle which bounced up (either off a defender or the goalkeeper) and went in the far post.

Stevenage went immediately up the other end and their strong number 3 overlapped and got a cross in which Tom Glover claimed at the near post in commanding fashion.

Azzaoui took possession in his own half and tried to drop an ambitious diagonal ball over the top for Sonupe, but he put too much on it on this occasion.

Tenacious midfielder Dean Parrett was sticking close to Azzaoui, and frequently nicked the ball away from him – he was clearly targeted as a danger man (rightly). Veljkovic then nearly found the breaking Azzaoui with another nice pass but it was intercepted.

Veljkovic’s cross-field switch to Sonupe was well struck, but the winger failed to take it in his stride with his head and it ran out of play.

Harrison had our second effort on goal – he got a weak shot away after latching onto an Ogilvie pass, but it was never troubling Stevenage.

Stevenage were happy to let our centre-backs have possession but pressed as soon as they stepped into midfield or laid it into a midfielder. Dominic Ball strode out of defence, but was well-chased by the number 9 and was robbed just as he was about to make a pass.

Spurs won a corner as Sonupe laid off to Walker-Peters and tried to run in behind the full-back. The Stevenage player positioned himself well but a poor touch took the ball over the line. Azzaoui’s right foot corner was headed over at the back post by Carter-Vickers.

Veljkovic was adept at dropping into centre-back to allow Ball to push up, and on one occasion Ball did so and found Harrison who was easily robbed – not for the first time. Veljkovic then received a poor pass in midfield but won it back and gave it simple, taking care to maintain possession and continue to frustrate Stevenage.

Oduwa showed good tenacity to block a ball from the full-back and then tore off after it – he stood the same player up but then when another got back to help out he couldn’t beat two, and on this occasion he chose the wrong option in not passing.

Some naive defending from Dominic Ball on the Spurs right led to a Stevenage free-kick, which Glover claimed superbly.

Stevenage had started the game in an overly physical manner, but that didn’t prepare me for what happened next. Charlie Lee absolutely scythed down Oduwa with a tackle that was late and high. Oduwa was left unconscious, and it quickly became clear that there was concern for him, as teammates knelt down close to him as he received treatment. His treatment lasted for 7 minutes before he was stretchered off and replaced by Cy Goddard. Challenges like this are part of the game, and something that our young players will need to get used to – especially lower down the football pyramid and when you have as much ability as Oduwa (which can frustrate opponents). But that sort of challenge in a friendly match – which will have likely been agreed as part of the deal by which they provide a home for our Under-21 side – was totally uncalled for. Lee picked up a yellow card, but it would have been red in any other context. Thankfully Oduwa was fine once he regained consciousness and he was able to watch the second half.

Cy Goddard moved into the number 10 position, with Azzaoui shifting out to the left – the position he mostly played for the Under-18s last season. The young Belgian drew applause with a nice drag back to retain possession – clearly unperturbed by the physical treatment that his teammate had received!

On the other side, Emmanuel Sonupe tried to play a one-two with Ogilvie but played the ball straight into touch.

A really positive burst down the left from Ogilvie (a feature throughout) saw him get onto a Lesniak pass and play a nice ball into Harrison in the box. His clever back-heel nearly found Goddard, but it was cleared for a corner, which the goalkeeper claimed at the second attempt.

On 44 minutes, Sonupe beat his man and got a cross in, but it was hacked away for a corner. Azzaui’s kick was attacked by Ball and fell kindly for the defender to play it back into the penalty area, but the cross was headed clear.

Carter-Vickers showed his calm style with a commanding piece of play at the back, stepping across his man to retain possession and allowing Glover to mop up with a clearance.

Spurs continued their assault down the flanks when Walker-Peters played in Sonupe deep on the right. The winger dug out an excellent cross but it was headed clear from within the six-yard box.

In the 7 minutes of stoppage time, Carter-Vickers displayed another piece of solid defending against Akinyemi – standing his ground and letting his opponent’s poor touch do the work, resulting in a goal kick to Spurs.

Goddard tried to thread a pass through to Azzaoui but it was not quite weighted well enough and the keeper snaffled it.

The final action saw Sonupe produce an up and under cross, but Goddard started his run from deep and couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

Stevenage made five substitutions at half-time, and four of the incoming players were trialists. One of those to leave the field was Charlie Lee – the ex-Spur being the one who injured Oduwa in the first half. 40-year old goalkeeper, Chris Day, another ex-Spur, also went off. Spurs made no further changes.

Stevenage changed their shape at various points, with Akinyemi playing up with the number 9, and this gave Spurs something to think about.

Tom Glover was keen to pass the ball out at every opportunity, and in one such situation he laid a pass to Lesniak in midfield, who retained the ball well under pressure from two opponents and spun 360 degrees in the centre circle to find space.

Ten minutes into the half Connor Ogilvie lost his third ball of the day with another big clearance – this one was later thrown back onto the outfield, though!

Glover claimed another corner and played a quick ball out to Azzaoui, who beat Stevenage’s number 21, made space and got a shot away which was blocked.

Parrett and Dale Gorman were trying to get on top of the physically small Goddard, but he used his low centre of gravity to wriggle into space and won a free kick. The free-kick on this occasion was played square and wasted.

Azzaoui made space in the box again and got another shot away – this time the goalkeeper closed his legs quickly to block.

Stevenage came close to equalising when a deep corner was headed over Glover and Lesniak was needed to head it off the line. Glover then blocked the follow-up before a final shot was fired well wide.

Harrison had a lovely effort on goal which was going in at the near post but the keeper got down well to palm it wide. Azzaoui’s corner was too deep for Carter-Vickers and sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick.

Luke Amos replaced Filip Lesniak on 69 minutes and played just ahead of Veljkovic – a slightly more advanced role than usual.

Spurs had typically tried to play out from Glover whenever possible, but when Stevenage squeezed up on one occasion, Veljkovic made a long run forward to provide a target up front from the goal kick. He didn’t win the ball – mostly as he was clearly held from behind by the centre-back he was jumping with. The referee struggled to spot shirt-pulling and pushes throughout, and let Stevenage play a very physical game.

Carter-Vickers muscled another Stevenage man off the ball and carried the ball out despite challenges coming from all angles, but Spurs lost the ball and committed a foul in trying to win it back. From the resulting free-kick, Akinyemi missed a glorious chance. The number 16 crossed well, Akinyemi lost Sonupe and sent his diving header across goal but wide. Ball was not best pleased with Sonupe’s defending!

Kenny McEvoy replaced Sonupe on 75 minutes, and Spurs reverted to a 4-3-1-2, with McEvoy up top on the right, Harrison left, with Azzaoui in behind them centrally.

Harrison had an opportunity to make it 2-0 when the Stevenage goalkeeper received a back-pass and kicked it straight at Harrison, although it bounced off him to safety and the trialist keeper quickly dived on the loose ball.

A neat Spurs move on the edge of the box showed potential, but Goddard over-hit his pass out for a goal kick.

Walkes replaced Walker-Peters at right-back for the final few minutes, and a minute later Spurs secured the win. Luke Amos sent Harrison through, he rounded the goalkeeper but was upended in doing so. He stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way from the spot.

Veljkovic won a superb tackle in midfield and then spread play well to Walkes – all of which typified his performance – and the final action saw Amos intelligently win a free-kick on edge of box which Azzaoui clipped into the wall and wide.

This was a stern test for a very young Spurs side against a much older, much more physical outfit. Stevenage’s style was surprising given that 1. it was a friendly and 2. they are managed by Sheringham, who was such an elegant player (and not at all dirty). I felt that perhaps a few of the Stevenage players set out to try to intimidate the Spurs boys, and got carried away when it didn’t really pan out for them.

It was notable that Spurs looked to play lots of long diagonals and cross-field passes in this match, much like the first team vs MLS All-Stars in midweek. Perhaps this is a move towards a slightly more direct style, with quick changes of the direction of attacks being a feature.

Glover 8 – a very commanding performance from the young Aussie. Claimed the ball consistently well (perhaps he’d been watching Joe Root in midweek) and distributed it smartly too.
Walker-Peters 7 – very secure defensively, and keen to support Sonupe without ever really going on any of his trademark mazy runs. Perhaps a bit more reserved than he is in Under-18 and Under-21 football due to the standard of the opposition.
Ball 6 – made one error of judgement down on the right when he needlessly committed a foul, but was otherwise sound and used the ball sensibly.
Cater-Vickers 8 – a very dominant showing, as we’ve come to expect.
Ogilvie 7 – it was really nice to see him get back to the sort of form I’d come to see from him in Under-18 football. A willing outlet on the left, willing to bomb forward to support the attack. I hope he has a better year this year as he’s a player I like; I felt he stagnated a bit last term.
Veljkovic 9 – wonderfully composed on the ball with a very useful range of passing; solid in the tackle; intelligent reading of the game. What’s not to like? I am slightly baffled as to why Pochettino doesn’t love him as much as I do, and I can only think that it’s because he doesn’t play with the high intensity that Pochettino demands. I’ve heard murmurings of a Championship loan – he’s better than that at this point and – in my opinion – should be getting outings for us in the Europa League and League Cup.
Lesniak 6 – a neat and a tidy performance, as is the standard from the Slovakian midfielder. I am unclear on his situation – first he was rumoured to have left Spurs, then he started appearing again… and now apparently a Championship club has shown interest in him, although I have no idea if that would be a loan or permanent move.
Sonupe 5 – struggled to have an impact for large periods against a very physical side.
Azzaoui 7 – a prominent figure in most of our attacks, and caused problems for the Stevenage defence with his movement and close control.
Oduwa 8 – was looking a real threat until his afternoon was ended by a crunching challenge. Did so well for the opening goal.
Harrison 5 – came to life just before the end with a great shot, and then did well to win and score the penalty, although he struggled a fair amount against big, strong centre-backs. He had a couple of sloppy touches when receiving the ball with his back to goal, and was easily beaten in the air by the Stevenage defenders, who were so much taller than him. This game will have been a really useful one for him – a bit of an eye-opener.

Goddard 6 – some nice footwork as ever, but his end product was lacking at times.
Amos – very effective cameo in a slightly more advanced position than usual.
McEvoy – ran around a bit.
Walkes – didn’t have enough time to make an impact.

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July 4, 2015

The Danger of Expectation

Let’s make one thing clear: what happened to Harry Kane last season was not just a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for the player – it was a once in a lifetime experience for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. It was perfection. Can it ever get better than that for a player in his first full season in the top flight? It’s so, so unlikely.

In the past few weeks I have received countless tweets asking who the next young players to break through are – and I respond by reeling off the same names that I’ve been talking up for months. There are articles written each week which list the most likely academy players to ‘follow in Kane’s footsteps’. But it struck me recently that I should probably stop reeling off these names and adding to the building hype – because how can it be helpful?

Essentially we are setting these players up to fail – how can they reach the standards that we are unconsciously creating for them? What would they have to do to impress: perform at a level over and above our already high expectations?

The truth is that part of the reason that Kane’s terrific season was so enjoyable was that – for many – it was utterly unexpected. Written off as a lumbering, awkward target man (mostly owing to the way he was used in early appearances, and an unfulfilling loan spell at Norwich City), he fell somewhere between a cult hero and figure of fun after launching a ball forward to waste time and spitting on himself when trotting back into his own half having done so. What happened after that was a rare and beautiful thing that led to a lot of words being eaten.

Nabil Bentaleb was chastised in his breakthrough season – many fans questioned ‘what he did’ before it became clear to all that what he did was, actually, rather remarkable for a player of that age and in that position. Ryan Mason has received widespread criticism for his defensive play despite last season being his first in the top flight. Inexperienced players make mistakes.

We have the most talented group of academy players that I have seen at Spurs, and there are many that *could* make the step up to Premier League player status. But there’s so much that can go wrong on that journey. There’s so much that can happen between now and ‘full England international’. Just getting to Jake Livermore level – a solid Premier League player (well, pre-incident) – is absolutely not to be sniffed at. Many, many academy players fall by the wayside and end up playing non-league football whilst finding a job outside the sport.

What would help is for fans to lower expectations, and just enjoy the glimpses of youth that we will hopefully get next season. Let’s bring them into an environment where they’re allowed to make mistakes without moans and groans inside the ground, and over-analysis on social media. Let’s not be so keen to be the person that called it right first that we make a firm decision on players after just a few appearances.

Let’s let our young players make mistakes and learn from them. Let’s support them through that process and accept that it’s the norm. Alas, they won’t all be Harry Kane.

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May 12, 2015

Youth Round-Up

This weekend saw Tottenham Hotspur Under-18s lose their final league game of the season – 3-2 to Aston Villa.

This means that, despite doing well in the group stage of the competition (finishing second in the South Group behind Chelsea, and going into Group 1 for the Final Stage), we will finish seventh or eighth out of eight in the Final Stage. Spurs, like several other sides, have changed their team for the Final Stage. A number of Under-18 players have been promoted to the Under-21 set-up, meaning that gaps have been filled by some Under-16 players. Having said that, the use of Under-16 players has been somewhat restricted by upcoming GCSE exams, meaning that there has been some rotation of players.

Now that the league season is over, the Under-18s will be embarking on two tournaments:

14-17 May, 36th International Terborg Toernooi, Netherlands.
21-25 May, Volksbank Cup – Stemwede, Germany.

The Under-18s have participated in a number of other tournaments throughout the season:

August: Eurofoot, Belgium. We finished fourth, and Tom Glover followed in Luke McGee’s footsteps by being named ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’.
September: Under-18 Champions Cup, held at Hotspur Way in, 2014. Kyle Walker-Peters won ‘Player of the Tournament’.
April: Torneo Internazionale – Bellinzona, Switzerland. We failed to qualify for the knock-out stage after dominating possession but failing to convert chances across all three games.

And, of course, we went out at the semi-final stage of the Youth Cup after a fantastic two-legged match against Chelsea.


Ismail Azzaoui and Marcus Edwards have been playing in the UEFA Under-17 Championships in Bulgaria this week, for Belgium and England respectively.

Azzaoui hit the post in a 2-0 defeat to Germany on Wednesday and then scored twice (one pen) for against Czech Republic Under-17s on Saturday afternoon. He played the whole of their 1-0 win over Slovenia on Tuesday to secure their place in the quarter-finals.

Edwards came off the bench to score England’s winning goal in their 1-0 triumph over Italy on Thursday, and then played 62 minutes in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.


On the subject of Spurs youth, I was asked a few questions by Twitter user (and all round nice guy), David Fouser (‏@journeymanhisto) and I thought my answers might be of interest to others.

David: Can you comment on the success of our loan placements this year? For example, Pritchard clearly had a great opportunity, but others have not.

There have been two outstanding loan moves this season, not including Dele Alli’s loan back to MK Dons. Alex Pritchard has stood out in a talented Brentford side under a manager, Mark Warburton, who knew him well and trusted him. Pritchard has been able to play in the centre of a 4-1-4-1, occasionally getting pushed wide on the left. He finished the season with 12 goals and 7 assists from 45 appearances, an impressive achievement. He won the Players’ Player of the Year, and finished as a runner-up in Supporters’ Player (which went to Toumani Diagouraga).

The other outstanding loan move was Grant Ward at Coventry City. Grant went to Chicago Fire as a right-sided midfielder who could also play at full-back. He has returned as a central midfielder, and he played every available minute for Coventry in that role, impressing their fans greatly.

Ryan Fredericks had some high points at Middlesbrough but the last few weeks of the season were blighted by injury. Dominic Ball had his first taste of league football at Cambridge United, where he eventually nailed down a starting role. However, it was at right-back – not really his position. Still, that move has to be seen as somewhat of a success. Likewise, Nathan Oduwa got some playing time at Luton Town, though he might have hoped for more.

Edit: inspired by an excellent point from ‘Mickster’ in the comments on this article, Nathan Oduwa’s recent interview illustrates clearly that it’s not all about playing time.

David: Sherwood arranged our loans before, right? Who’s job is this now – Paul Mitchell?

I believe that this was a part of Sherwood’s role as ‘Technical Co-ordinator’, although his exact role was always a bit of a mystery. I would imagine that this role is shared between various parties, and it must help having Ugo Ehiogu as Under-21 coach – he is someone who will no doubt have a network of contacts built up over a lengthy playing career, and this will help when it comes to arranging loans.

David: Do we know much about Pochettino’s and Mitchell’s history vis-a-vis loans and academy development. If they prefer one over the other?

In four years at Espanyol, Pochettino gave debuts to 23 players from their academy; a remarkable figure. At Southampton he built on that reputation, and the fact that he instantly took a shine to Ryan Mason on arrival with us was no great surprise.

I have no knowledge as to his attitude on loans vs Under-21 development, but we did send a lot of players out in January. That said, two players that have had first-team involvement – Harry Winks and Josh Onomah – did stay ‘in-house’, which could be telling.

David: Who’s the next Harry Kane?

We have some real talent ready to burst onto the scene. Central midfielders Winks and Onomah are close to the first-team now, and Kyle Walker-Peters is a fantastic talent at right-back. Cameron Carter-Vickers has been called up to the United States Under-20 squad recently – he is the youngest player in the squad at 17. There are three or four others who could easily become first team squad regulars, not least Milos Veljkovic, who I saw as on a par with Nabil Bentaleb when they were playing together in the Under-21s.

Predicting who will be the next Kane is tough, but I can see Veljkovic making a positive impact next season, if trusted. He can play in defensive midfield or at centre-back. He was sent out on loan to Charlton Athletic in January – personally I was hoping that he would stay with us and see some playing time as a defensive midfielder.

Thanks for the questions, David, I hope that’s been of interest!

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Onomah and Walker-Peters started. #THFC
8 Oct 2015