Introducing the "Spurs XI" – including Ceballos & Coulibaly
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Pre-season has already started but, at least for UK-based fans, the easily accessible matches begin on Saturday at Barnet, where a Spurs XI will turn out for Lee Harrison’s testemonial. The same Spurs XI squad then play MK Dons on Tuesday, followed by Leyton Orient on Friday, before the full team christen Brighton’s new stadium a week tomorrow (I will be there but unfortunately sat in the Brighton end!).
For those who do not know too much about the players that will be playing for the Spurs XI, here’s a little bit about them.
Ben Alnwick (24) – probably one of the better known players in the Spurs XI, Alnwick signed a contract extension this summer, which surprised a few people (including myself). Having made just three starts for Spurs since joining in 2006/7, and failing to impress in any of those, it was widely expected that he would move on. However, he and fellow goalkeeper David Button seem to be sharing the Spurs XI number one jersey this summer. From the highlights I saw of the game against Nottingham Forest, he made some very decent saves, but I personally don’t regard him as a future first-team player.
David Button (22) – having played 29 games for Plymouth Argyle last season, David will be looking for experience at a higher level over the coming season so, like a number of the other players, will see these friendlies as a “shop window” opportunity. David is a decent all-rounder who probably needs to work most on commanding his box, but he does seem to be making genuine year-on-year progress, which can only be a good thing.
Nathan Byrne (19) – the only recognised defender in the squad list published by the Barnet website! Byrne is a versatile player who is probably most comfortable at right back. He played seven times on loan at Brentford last year (where he was mainly used on the right wing) and will be looking to get back out on loan again over the coming year. Nathan is an energetic and reliable performer – a good athlete who likes to get forward to support the attack.
John Bostock (19) – a well-known name, and one often used to illustrate how bad Spurs are at bringing through young players. In truth, he was over hyped from a young age and perhaps should have stayed at Crystal Palace, where he was getting the occasional game at the age of 16. Bostock has good technique, and strikes a ball well, but in my opinion still lacks decision-making and it is difficult to know where to best fit him into a team. It will be interesting to see in which position he plays in pre-season.
Thomas Carroll (19) – another good technician, and a player who likes to keep the ball (which I always admire). Tom prefers to play centrally but has often filled in on the left and even at left back, which is a possibility again with the lack of recognised defenders. I like him best in a deep lying midfield role, where he can keep things ticking over.
Ryan Fredericks (18) – an exciting right winger who unfortunately missed a lot of last season due to injury. As a result of that injury he may not be ready for the Barnet game, but I suspect he may get an outing in one of the other matches. He signed a professional contract in the summer and will be looking to push on this season – hopefully securing a loan move in the process. Fredericks has good pace and a trick or two – he likes to beat defenders and get to the by-line. Definitely one to watch.
Jake Livermore (21) – a central midfield player who will more than likely play at centre-back in these pre-season friendlies due to a lack of natural defenders. In my opinion that could turn out to be a big positive for him, as I am unconvinced of his abilities as a midfield player. He is a physically strong presence in the team, though, and is one of the more experienced players, having played League One and Championship football.
Massimo Luongo (18) – signed in January, half-Australian/half-Indonesian central midfield player Luongo seems to have a bit of everything to his game. When I saw him against MK Dons for our U18s, I described him as follows – “Strong, composed, intelligent, rarely gives the ball away”. He stood out in that game, and Tim Sherwood singled him out for praise after the recent match against Brighton too. I think he is a player that we will be hearing a lot more of in the coming seasons.
Jake Nicholson (19) – a holding midfield player, and another one who may be asked to play at centre-back. Nicholson is positionally decent and is another that likes to keep the ball. I’ll be interested to hear how he does in the coming games, as this is probably a make or break season for him. He will be looking to impress in order to earn a loan move, as his loan to Finnish side MyPa was cut short.
Alex Pritchard (18) – an attacking midfield player who prefers to play centrally, but tends to start wide and drift inside. He showed a real eye for goal for the U18s last season, and seemed to be heavily involved in most of the best performances. A clever player who likes to play one-touch and knows how to arrive late in the box.
Cristian Ceballos (18) – previously at Barcelona, Ceballos joined us as a free agent less than a fortnight ago. He made his debut in the 3-1 win against Nottingham Forest, and was involved in the third goal. Adam Nathan (well worth a Twitter follow by the way!) saw that game, and described him as “exactly what you’d expect from a La Masia graduate-good touch, clever movement and always looking for the ball.”
Andros Townsend (20) – this is a big year for Andros, who ended the season with an outstanding run of performances for Millwall. Having made his Spurs debut (and scored!) against Charlton, he will surely be looking for more first team action in the early parts of the season – probably in Europa League games. There is every chance that he could play at left-back for these pre-season games (as he did against Forest), which will certainly not harm his development, but he is predominantly a winger.
Jesse Waller Lassen (18) – another pacey wide-man, Waller Lassen is a right-sided player who was a striker in his youth, but has even played at right-back for us. He’s not the biggest, but he is very quick, with good energy and an excellent work-rate. I will be interested to see how he performs.
Ryan Mason (20) – a converted number 10 who (to my frustration) now always seems to play in central midfield. Mason was absolutely prolific for our U18s playing just off a front man (usually Jon Obika), but seemed to get moved to central midfield when he went on loan to Yeovil, and also played there for Doncaster. I personally would like to see him used in the van der Vaart role, as his attacking abilities are his main strength. A player I really enjoy watching – great technique, good vision, and always tries to play the game the right way.
Jonathan Obika (20) – this is a big season for Obika, who has signed a contract extension this summer. Another loan spell at Yeovil last season meant that he finished the season on a high, after facing disappointment elsewhere. A player who likes to play on the shoulder, and who has decent strength and pace on the turn, but does not seem to have been able to convert his excellent goal record at youth level to league football.
Kudus Oyenuga (18) – Kudus scored the third goal against Brighton on Tuesday, and will be looking to carry on scoring in order to win himself a loan move to a League One club. He is a powerful striker who chases everything and works hard for the team. However, he does have a tendency to hang on to the ball too long, and he needs to work on his link play.
Harry Kane (17) – another name familiar to many, primarily because there has been a buzz around him for about a year now. His scoring record at U18 level, especially for such a young player, was excellent. That came despite not always playing as a striker – in fact, he normally played as the link man. Not 18 until the end of the month, Kane already has five league goals (for Leyton Orient) to his name. A clever player with good touch and movement, he scored an impressive goal in the opening Spurs XI friendly against Nottingham Forest, lashing home from around 25 yards to get his second of the game.
Cameron Lancaster (18) – a player who has always been a little “under the radar”, mainly because he has been injured a lot over the last couple of years. A quick, clinical striker, Lancaster made four appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge last year, and will be looking for another loan move in the coming season.
Soulemayne “Soli” Coulibaly (16) – the new boy marked his debut with an equaliser as we came from behind to draw with Brighton on Tuesday. He also hit the post and drew a number of saves from the goalkeeper, with Sherwood saying of him “He has a one-track mind and that’s to go for goal, he gets the ball out of his feet and smashes it.” It’s important to remember that he is the same age as the players going into their first year of Academy football this year (Alex McQueen, Laste Dombaxe, etc), and we must be patient with him, despite his outstanding performance at the U17 World Cup.
Milos Veljkovic – a central midfield player who was previously with FC Basel, Veljkovic played for us in the Copa Amsterdam, and I gather that he also spent time with the squad in Portugal.
Tasos Kantoutsis – a Greek trialist who seems to play at centre-back, and started for us in the game against Nottingham Forest.