I tend to write each year about the 25-man squad and the implications of the homegrown players rule. This year I’m writing about it a little earlier than usual because it will impact on Spurs’ transfer strategy. The reason being that Spurs have sleepwalked into a potential issue with homegrown player numbers which could impact on how many signings José Mourinho can make and/or the size of our squad for next season.
I wrote last June that ‘This summer will likely see Spurs re-build the squad both from the top-down and bottom up. By that I mean that we will need to add first team-ready additions in at two or three key areas, but also prepare for the future, with one eye on the home grown players rule.’
We signed Jack Clarke and Ryan Sessegnon — a nod towards some forward-planning. However, their lack of progression over this past year causes an issue. Both count as ‘freebies’ for the next couple of years – i.e. they don’t have to be named in the 25-man squad. But it does not seem likely at this point that they will get significant minutes because… well, they’ve both essentially stood still since signing.
Back to the homegrown rule. The misconception about the requirement itself is that clubs must name eight home grown players in their squads. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc.
Remember, a home grown player is defined as one whom, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21). Source: Premier League.
As ever, we will not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list, so could augment our squad with youngsters. This would mean that we could manage with, say, a 22-man squad with just five homegrown players, but would need plenty of under 21 players who are ready to play (particularly if we qualify for the Europa League). For the 2020/21 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 1999. This means that for the coming season we still have a number of ‘freebies’ who are fairly well-known names: Brandon Austin, Gedson Fernandes, Jack Roles, Japhet Tanganga, TJ Eyoma, Ryan Sessegnon, Oliver Skipp, Jack Clarke, Jamie Bowden, Harvey White, J’Neil Bennett, Troy Parrott, Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Dennis Cirkin. One would expect the majority of these to be out on loan next season, but we can probably expect Gedson, Tanganga, Sessegnon and, perhaps, White, Cirkin and Parrott to get some playing time.
Returning to the over-21s, Spurs currently have 29 players who would need to be named in the Premier League squad list in order to play. But, of those, I would expect 10 or more to leave, either permanently or on loan.
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Of those I would expect to stay, only five are homegrown: Ben Davies, Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Dele and Alfie Whiteman. With just five homegrown players, we would only be able to name a squad of 22 players, so if my assumptions about those that may leave are correct, we would only be able to add three non-homegrown players.
Naturally, this would make the signing of homegrown players a more attractive proposition. We have been linked with Max Aarons and Nathan Ferguson, both homegrown and, even better, not needing to be listed for another couple of seasons. Ollie Watkins is tearing up the Championship and has an £18m release clause. Eberechi Eze has long been linked with Spurs. An alternative would be to keep Walker-Peters, though Mourinho has already said that he would not stand in the way of his ‘leaving the club in search of happiness’.
Young, English players are amongst the best in Europe, but they do come at a premium because of the additional value that the homegrown tag adds.
One other consideration is the Europa League. Of course, we may not even qualify, but the Europa League rules are a little different to the Premier League rules — have a look at pages 39 and 40 of the regulations. UEFA don’t just want clubs to have players trained elsewhere in the FA structure — they have additional requirements for club-trained players. They want to encourage clubs to bring through their own young players.
If we want to name a ‘full’ squad in the Europa League, we would need four ‘association-trained’ players and four ‘club-trained’ players (based on my predictions we would have just Kane, Winks and Whiteman).
With strong links to Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Kim Min-jae and Arkadiusz Milik, Spurs could soon be in a position where they would need to sell (or loan) a non-homegrown player in order to buy another. It’s something to keep an eye on as the transfer window develops.