A Spurs youth round-up: Tourneo Internazionale (Bellinzona), Copa Amsterdam, The NextGen Series and more!
Follow me on Twitter – @WindyCOYS.
The Tottenham Hotspur Academy again had a season of varied and exciting experiences, with participation in highly-regarded youth tournaments alongside the usual Premier Academy League.
A Spurs youth round-up: Tourneo Internazionale (Bellinzona), Copa Amsterdam, and Tim Sherwood’s role revisited.
FA Premier Academy League round-up
Our Under 18s had a strong season despite fielding a comparatively young side for much of the year, which will hopefully stand us in even better stead for next year.
We started with a 2-1 win at Derby, in which Harry Kane (later sent on loan, as we know) scored both goals, and no less than five players made their debuts at this level. That alone illustrated how Alex Inglethorpe and John McDermott were prepared to throw young players in at the deep end and let them learn “on the job”, so to speak. In fact, this was the only league game that Kane took part in, as younger players like Shaquille Coulthirst, and later Victor Zapata Caicedo (both under 16s) were given chances to shine.
Using such a young team was always likely to mean that we would fall to a few defeats, and we followed our opening day win with two home defeats, before beating Charlton 4-0 with Alex Pritchard, who had a strong season which was unfortunately ended early by injury, scoring twice.
A slightly older team was used for the home game against Chelsea, and it proved a good decision, as we won the local derby 4-2 – Kudus Oyenuga coming into the team and scoring twice, and Pritchard bagging another couple.
Our rockiest run of the season followed – six defeats and two draws – a run which included a 6-0 thumping at Birmingham City. This was a tough learning curve for our youngsters, but one from which they able to learn. From here, they strung together a string of impressive results – revenge against Birmingham, with a 2-1 win (Pritchard scoring again), a credible draw at Coventry, a 3-2 win against Reading, a 1-1 home draw with eventual group winners, Aston Villa., a 3-2 away win at MK Dons (thanks to a Coulthirst hat-trick), plus two more wins away at Bristol City and at home to Watford.
Unfortunately amidst this run we also lost in the first round of the FA Youth Cup – a surprise defeat at Oakwell, with Barnsley winning 3-1 against a strong Spurs side, but one that changed formation to accommodate different personnel. This was the one big downside of the season, as a Youth Cup run can work wonders for a team in terms of helping to bring players through along with encouraging fans to engage with the youth team.
Back in the league, a defeat against Fulham was our only loss in our fourteen league games from December to May, and we actually won five our last seven (including a 1-0 win against Arsenal, and a 4-0 thrashing of MK Dons in which Massimo Luongo was outstanding), finishing incredibly strongly to secure 4th place in our group. Due to our win-less run in October and November, we were never going to trouble the top three, but it was great to see the progression that our young players made.
Next season should be another good year, with a number of under 16 players starting their “scholarship” having already had nearly a full year of experience – the likes of Laste Dombaxe, Alex McQueen, Lee Angol and Shaq Coulthirst should be well ahead of a number of first years at other clubs.
Tourneo Internazionale (Bellinzona)
We once again took part in the Tourneo Internazionale in Bellinzona, Switzerland in April, although our squad, including two trialists, did not have much luck and, despite strong performances, lost against FC Basel (3-0), Feyenoord (1-0), and Boca Juniors (2-0).
Both FC Basel and Feyenoord were nearly a year older than us on average and, as we have seen with Switzerland in the European U21 Championships, youth development is taken very seriously there.
Coach Alex Inglethorpe spoke like a proud father after the Feyenoord game:
“We’ve been in something like 20 tournaments now over the years in places like Mexico and beat Barcelona on the way to winning here in Bellinzona (2009) but I would count this performance as right up there with the best of them.
We look for two things – the performance and the scoreline. At this age, the performance comes before the scoreline because we are all about player development. Obviously as they get older, the scoreline means everything.
This was an excellent performance taking into consideration the age difference between the teams. We had the better players on show.
We were in control right up until the last minute when Feyenoord hit an unstoppable winner into the top corner.
We had chances. Victor went through, managed to skip around the goalkeeper but fired into the side-netting from the angle. Kenneth McEvoy also went close and was a constant threat, but I wouldn’t want to pick out individuals. This was an outstanding team performance, I was very proud of them.”
After the final game against Boca Juniors, Inglethorpe was again philosophical:
“That’s a key difference in the age groups. We’re the youngest squad out here with a number of Under-16 players in an Under-19 tournament. Some of the players we’re up against are three years older and they have that extra experience, especially in terms of taking chances.
Of the three group games, I’d only say we were disappointed with the second half against FC Basel. Other than that, the lads have been excellent.”
Our squad was as follows:
1 Jordan Archer 12.04.1993
2 Jack Barthram 13.10.1993
3 Shaquile Coulthirst 02.11.1994
4 Daniel Day 08.12.1993
5 William Ekong 01.09.1993
6 Ronnie Hawkins 04.03.1994
7 Massimo Luongo 25.09.1992
8 Paul McBride 13.09.1992
9 Kenneth McEvoy 04.09.1994
10 Alexander McQueen 24.03.1995
11 Jack Munns 18.11.1993
12 Pierantonio Larrauri 26.03.1994 – a Peruvian U17 who was previously at Bayern.
13 Jonathan Miles 29.03.1993
14 James Lawrence 22.08.1992 – who was previously at Ajax.
15 Kevin Stewart 07.09.1993
16 Callum Tapping 05.06.1993
17 James Yeboah 05.01.1994
18 Victor Zapata Caicedo 29.09.1994
The second European tournament of the season was the Copa Amsterdam which took place at the end of May.
We beat Olympique Marseille 1-0 in our opening game, thanks to a goal from Cameron Lancaster, before losing 2-0 to a strong Botafogo FR side. Lancaster scored again to help us to a solid 1-0 win against Anderlecht, which took us through to the semi-finals.
In the semi-final we lost 1-0 to Ajax, and so went into the 3rd/4th place play-off later in the day with Slovakian side AS Trencin. After a fairly drab 0-0, captain Nathan Byne held his nerve to score the winning penalty in sudden death to secure third place.
Inglethorpe was again pleased with the overall performance:
“I’m very pleased with them. We had the youngest squad out here so it was a really good effort from everyone to get third place in the tournament.
We started well and should have won the first game by a few more than we did and then an outstanding performance against Anderlecht.
It can be tough when you need a win to go through but we controlled the game, played some good football and deserved the 1-0.
And there’s no shame in going out to Ajax who are a very good side, especially by only the odd goal, and then there was another excellent performance in the play-off.”
Our squad was as follows:
1 Jordan Archer
2 Alexander McQueen
3 Kevin Stewart
4 Jake Nicholson
5 Milos Veljkovic (trialist)
6 James Yeboah
7 Jack Munns
8 Cameron Lancaster
9 John Bostock
10 Kudus Oyenuga
11 Callum Tapping
12 Nathan Byrne
13 Jonathan Miles
14 Ronnie Hawkins
15 Mason Bush?
16 Ramil Sheriff
17 Tom Carroll
18 Jack Barthram
It was announced on the Official Site recently that the club is to compete in the Nextgen Series – Club to compete in new Euro U19 tournament:
The Club has agreed to participate in the Nextgen Series, a new six-month international Under-19 tournament that commences this August.
Sixteen clubs from across Europe, including Barcelona, Inter Milan, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool, will compete in the inaugural tournament where clubs will be drawn into four groups of four, playing home and away, with the top two from each advancing to the knockout phase to determine who will be crowned champions in January, 2012.
Sanctioned by UEFA and the FA, the tournament has been established to assist young players in making the transition from youth football to senior level.
Confirmed clubs: Aston Villa, Barcelona, FC Basel, Celtic, Fenerbahce, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Manchester City, Marseille, Molde, PSV Eindhoven, Rosenborg, Sporting Lisbon, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolfsburg.
For more information visit www.nextgenseries.com
There has been very little information coming to light about this exciting tournament in the English press, but The Herald (a Scottish paper) ran this story, as Celtic are also participating. Champions League for Celtic’s next generation:
DETAILS of the new Champions League-style youth competition in which Celtic will be involved this coming season are so hard to come by you could have sworn they were subject to a superinjunction.
Organisers Cycad Sports Management are desperate to co-ordinate the clocks right across Europe and announce the event in a blaze of publicity in a fortnight’s time so there was a mild bout of apoplexy in some quarters when Celtic’s website yesterday revealed that the Parkhead side had been drawn against Barcelona, Manchester City and French outfit Marseille in the inaugural running of the ‘invitation only’ event, which will pit 16 of the top clubs in Europe at Under-19 level in a group stage format, with the top two sides in each group progressing to a televised finals tournament in Abu Dhabi in January.
Although the final guest list for the most exclusive teenage party in European football remains shrouded in secrecy, Herald Sport has managed to glean some other nuggets of information. The event has a working title of the Next Generation League, and Cycad are a management company set up by Mark Warburton, a former Brentford first-team coach, in 2010.
The event is scheduled to expand from 16 to 24 teams for its second season and, regardless of this expansion, Celtic will retain exclusivity in the Scottish market for three years. While Rangers are on the outside looking in, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, Ajax and AC Milan are also believed to be involved in the competition, with Arsenal one of the teams already desperate to form part of the second wave.
The event is backed by a private investor and all expenses for travelling and accommodation will be covered. Matches will involve players born after January 1993, which in Celtic’s case includes the likes of Tony Watt, the former Airdrie United striker, and Czech twins Filip and Patrick Twardzik, and the team managed by Tommy McIntyre and Stevie Frail.
The group stages will run from August to December with home ties to be played at Celtic Park if scheduling allows. The Parkhead club’s first planned encounters include the rather daunting double header of Barcelona at home and Manchester City away.
There is one minor fly in the ointment, however. The tournament has yet to receive the formal blessing of Uefa and Fifa, which means Celtic still have to go through the laborious process of applying for permission to play. The club hope this is a formality. Few Scottish teams, after all, receive guarantees to play in pan-European competition these days.
“Celtic would obviously need backing from the SFA and the SPL to participate, just like any other tournament, but all the games are midweeks so it wouldn’t interfere with Under-19s matches,” said the club’s head of youth Chris McCart, who has been involved in discussions with the group since the very beginning of the process, some 18 months ago. “What we will look to do now is make those discussions more formal and request in writing. You go through the protocol like any other procedure. The logistics of getting a tournament of this magnitude together are always a bit of doubt so it is great that all the clubs have backed it and signed up for it.”
McCart is in no doubt of the magnitude of the challenge that awaits his side. “Barcelona have got such a strong brand name, Manchester City are perhaps the richest club in the world, and Marseille have got an excellent system, so three of the four have already won the European Cup in their history,” he said. “I don’t think any of the groups will be stronger than ours. But our main purpose is to develop Champions League players and this event replicates exactly the same process that first-team players will go through. We can also offer players the opportunity of playing against the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City on the big stage and in big stadia, so it’s excellent from our recruitment point of view too. We have signed up to it for the next three years and we are really excited about it.”
The competition was launched after a successful pilot last season, in which Celtic defeated Liverpool 3-1 in Glasgow. It is an exciting venture, even if those closest to it might be happier keeping it under wraps at the moment. “It is still subject to a huge amount of change, there is still a huge amount of work to do and some of the fixture times may change,” a spokesman for the competition said last night. “But the contracts we have with the various clubs are set in stone.”
It might not make up for missing out on the Champions League, but the Next Generation League might just be the next best thing.
The tournament sounds really interesting, and it’s exciting that Spurs are involved. I gather that the matches will be played at White Hart Lane, giving fans the chance to watch some of Europe’s best young talent.
Tim Sherwood’s role and the Spurs XI
Roughly this time last year, I wrote about Tim Sherwood’s role at the club. I have so far been relatively impressed with Sherwood’s influence, with a number of our young players having successful loan spells, and with the likes of Andros Townsend being moved immediately from one club to another when things were not going quite so well – pro-active management of these situations is vital.
It will be interesting to see how we (and Sherwood in particular) handle our young players next season. One option would be to keep Caulker, Townsend, Parrett, Mason, etc, around for the early stages of the Europa League and League Cup, in order to give them some first team experience. That way they have the opportunity to stake a first team squad claim but, equally, if they are unable to do so, we can then get them out on loan in time to have plenty of playing time across the rest of the season. Indeed, Sherwood has already hinted that this is the route we will take:
“[The Europa League] is a great opportunity to look at what we’ve got in reserve and I honestly believe that we have the players to step up and play.
“Liverpool have done it and they’ve got a good few players coming through and playing Premier League football at the end of the season.”
Another option would be for Sherwood to enter a reserve team this year. Whilst we played a reasonable number of behind-closed-doors “Spurs XI” games last year, it’s not quite the same as entering a league, where the young players play in front of crowds and are, of course, playing within a league format. At the time of our decision to pull out of the reserve league, it was due to the fact that we wanted control over who and when we would play; I would imagine that this was influenced by the number of players we had out on loan. We are now in a position where we can afford to have players on loan, but also put together a decent reserve side.
John McDermott on “the relative age effect”
In an interesting Guardian article last weekend, Jamie Jackson quoted John McDermott regarding the theory that players born in the summer had far less chance of being kept on at clubs.
“The best talent spotter is able to spot the player with most potential for the future and not necessarily the player having the biggest impact in the team at the moment.
At Tottenham we’ve introduced strategies to try and combat the bias [which include] putting the seven-, eight-, nine- and 10-year-olds together, therefore a player moves up to the older group on his birthday. In that way he experiences being the youngest and eldest as the year progresses.
Tom Carroll, an outstanding prospect, trains regularly with our first team and is on loan at Leyton Orient [but] he couldn’t cope physically in matches with his own age group as he was a late developer and [had a] summer birthday. But he had outstanding perception, technique and aerobic capacity.
Of the [many] boys out on loan recently, Ryan Mason [Doncaster Rovers], Harry Kane and Carroll [Orient], Nathan Byrne [Brentford], Danny Rose [Bristol City], Jake Nicholson [MyPa], Kyle Walker [Aston Villa], and Andros Townsend [Millwall] are all summer babies.”
As ever, it’s good to hear that Spurs are well on top of this, and it’s interesting that in the younger age groups we move a player up to the next year group on his birthday.
Player news and speculation
The list of released players will almost certainly be announced in the coming week, but I gather that “graduating” 2nd years Zaine Francis-Angol and Olumide Durojaiye have already been informed that the club will not be offering them professional contracts. Both have had trials with other clubs but, as yet, I don’t believe that either has signed any kind of contract.
Jesse Waller-Lassen has signed a professional contract with us although I don’t think that the club has formally announced this yet, which could imply that they will announce a number of new young professionals signing contracts.
Finally, we will be participating in this year’s Milk Cup at the end of July. Last year we finished 7th out of the 24 teams, with a very young squad. Fixtures can be found on the official Milk Cup website – I’d love to hear from anyone who is able to get along to this.