Academy buzz

by Windy

Youth tsar Windy drops some the knowledge on our academy and discusses whether or not there is another "Harry Kane" moment around the corner.

It’s that time of year again where the intake of first year scholars is announced, photos and biographies go live on the club website, youth players are mingled with the first team in training pictures, and Spurs XI friendlies give the every day fan more access to the youth players than is normally the case throughout the season.

This generally creates a bit of a buzz, and people start making predictions on which youth player will be the one to get a chance in the forthcoming season. But this year it’s different, because there are up to ten youth team players that could make debuts or become regular squad members in the coming season, such is the quality in the Tottenham Hotspur Academy.

I wrote a few weeks ago about The Danger Of Expectation and, in that article, I explained that I get regular tweets asking who our brightest young star is.

‘Can x be the next Harry Kane?’.

‘Will y be a Premier League player for us?’

‘Do you see z being in the first team squad next season?’

This has gone into overdrive in recent weeks – with relatively few signings made so far, fans start to turn their attention inwards. It’s nearly 10 years since Ricardo Moniz arrived in Tottenham (29 September 2005) and our Academy’s revamp truly began; buy Fanzine Issue 1  for my article about Moniz’s methods and his impact.

Harry Kane’s dream season is highly unlikely to ever be repeated. But, instead, be comfortable with youth players filling squad positions and then hopefully progressing beyond that

It’s worth remembering that the current first year scholars will have been around six years old when Moniz came in. Many will not have been at Tottenham until later, but many will have grown up with our ‘new’ coaching methods in place, and it is has become increasingly obvious that technical ability supersedes everything. Our current crop of academy players, as well as the players that will be playing Under-16 football next season are amongst the most highly rated that we have ever had.

But I am speaking in contradictions here. Don’t overhype the players, but recognise they’re THE BEST WE’VE EVER HAD EVER. The point I’m trying to make is to not get too bogged down in focusing on individual Academy players, hyping them to levels which they can never meet.

Remember that Harry Kane’s dream season is highly unlikely to ever be repeated. But, instead, be comfortable with youth players filling squad positions and then hopefully progressing beyond that. Be comfortable with allowing them to make mistakes as they learn, be comfortable with persisting with them until their twenties, be comfortable with allowing them to be squad rotation options or starting players depending on their ability and form.

Just enjoy the approach that players who have often grown up in the local area, and have been indoctrinated from such a young age are now good enough and trusted enough to be given opportunities in the first team.

As long as our Academy staff largely remain and the overall strategy is consistent, then the output should be too

In a market where even average players are costing £10m+, what better way than to develop your own? You not only get players that meet homegrown regulations, players that you have educated and moulded yourself, but they’re also free! Well, sort of.

The ability to sculpt young players over a long period of time should not be sniffed at. I’m realistic; I know that – Spurs being Spurs – we’ll have multiple Head Coaches in the ‘lifespan’ of most Academy players. Between joining the club and making their debut, the chances that the Head Coach is the same person is slim. But as long as our Academy staff largely remain and the overall strategy is consistent, then the output should be too.

And, let’s face it, with the transfer market being what it is, you often don’t know which positions will need filling until a matter of days before the season begins, so it’s useful to aim to produce players of varying positions and not, for example, focus on producing pressing midfielders being Mauricio Pochettino needs those.

Today our Under-21s kick off the National Under-21 Tournament in Ploufragan with a morning match against Stade Rennais. We play SM Caen later on today before our final group game against EU Guingamp on Saturday. The squad is a strong one and includes a number of players that have been training and playing with the first team squad in pre-season. This tournament will be a good test of their fitness and – not least – their ability to maintain focus when dropping down a level.

Cameron Carter-Vickers and Milos Veljkovic have been playing FIFA U20 World Cup football this summer, and this might feel like a comedown. But they will be seen as experienced players for some of the younger ones to look up to, and they have a vital role to play.

Nathan Oduwa, Kyle Walker-Peters and others have seen action in our pre-season matches to date (so far we have played Rangers, Southend United, Reading, Peterborough United, Brentford), but are expected to muck in. Dominic Ball, Grant Hall and Kenny McEvoy (along with Veljkovic) all had league experience last season.

But it’s vital that they approach these sorts of tournaments with total professionalism in an effort to catch the eye – that’s the only way that they will earn promotion to the first team squad for the remainder of pre-season.

Squad: Voss (GK), Whiteman (GK), Amos, Azzaoui, Ball, Carter-Vickers, Goddard, Hall, Harrison, Maghoma, McEvoy, Oduwa, Ogilvie, Sonupe, Sterling, Veljkovic, Walker-Peters, Walkes.

It will be fascinating to see whether the likes of Carter-Vickers and Walker-Peters will travel to Germany with the first team

Hearing that 16-year old Manchester City centre-back Cameron Humphreys is playing against Real Madrid today, while our own Cameron is playing in an Under-21 tournament might raise eyebrows for some (including the players). But playing in a competitive Under-21 tournament rather than dealing with the pressure situation of playing against Galaticos is more likely to keep a players’ feet on the ground.

These are the types of decisions that are coaching staff have to make regularly. What is best for the player? It will be fascinating to see whether the likes of Carter-Vickers and Walker-Peters will travel to Germany with the first team.

No doubt there will still be more Academy players released or sold than make the first team, that is normal. But the ratio will be radically reduced over the next few years, and we might soon be in a position where it’s near enough 50:50. Wouldn’t it be nice to be naming an all-Academy XI in the near future?

Author

Windy

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