Young Guns: Go For It!
It seems that for a lifetime there has been excitement about this or that golden generation of youth at Tottenham, but always they have stagnated and fallen away, usually into lower league mediocrity.
Perhaps that is a little unfair on several very good prospects over the years, but since Ledley King achieved legendary status in the Spurs side, only Jamie O'Hara has come even close to stepping up from home-grown academy player into a first team squad regular. As we all know a mix of injuries and that missing 1% of something stood in his way of becoming a starting XI player, but nearly is never enough and from our last reserve team of title winners in 2005/06 and since, he remains the only player from our academy to come close, until now.
This season and even last, we were all talking about Steven Caulker and Jake Livermore as players who appear to now be of genuine quality and determination to become first teamers. Caulker is now surely on the brink of forcing himself into the first XI, even if he will have to embrace a rotation policy that I genuinely hope works well in the long term. I have been hugely disappointed at some of the digs at Jake this season and feel it wasn't deserved or possible reasons understood. In the opening games of this season, it was clear that both Livermore and Sandro weren't playing at their best, but was that more about a team finding its way and not yet having the balance right to play to its max? I would argue that in the opening three Prem games, Jake was on a par with Sandro, who only came alive himself when he had a more creative partner. Would the same have happened to Livermore, if he was partnering Dembele?
Last night we saw a few others make their first starts of the season. Andros Townsend is a player that looks to offer genuine alternatives to either Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon in the wide roles. A left footed player of real pace, but also with an eye for goal and a more than decent right foot and ability to go past his defender on either side. Perhaps today he isn't quite as good as his senior first team rivals, but he looks to be a player that will get better with games and confidence, and I wouldn't worry if he were to be thrown in to any senior game, as he has the quality to worry any opposition. In the short term is his squad role, coming on late as an impact sub?
I have been a fan of Ryan Mason for some time, even though he waved away my then 8 year old sons request for an autograph when playing for Yeovil a few years ago. In that game, Ryan ran the show, even though he was years younger and physically slighter than everyone else in the midfield. Mason offers creativity, vision and a real eye for goal and you feel he has the versatility to play either wide or central, as a play-maker or in the hole, though the latter is probably his best position at this time, but I wonder if a deeper role will ultimately be his preference. With competition fierce for those roles, he still has plenty of work to do, but with a little luck and a lot of determination, I feel he has the quality to make himself a valued squad player, and then who knows.
A bit like Mason, it is clear that Yago Falque has the quality, though perhaps his defensive and team awareness still need a little polishing. Great feet and vision in the last third, but for me, he still needs games and perhaps a long term loan is what he needs. I ignore his half season at Southampton, as despite their style of football being ideal for Yago, they were very strong in the attacking areas, and he was not quite up to it, but it is far too early to write him off because of one failure. It is clear that not every player thrives on loan, and as we have seen with Livermore in several loans and others including Mason who have struggled for various reasons, a loan is about gaining off field maturity as much is it is about the playing of the game.
It is currently hard to see how Adam Smith will break into the senior side other than a few low key games, and would it be a surprise if we didn't see him in a Spurs shirt again this season. Fingers crossed we have the right back position covered in the two Kyles, and on the left, he will surely have BAE, Vertonghen and Naughton again, ahead of him. Like Falque, it might be wise to loan him out to get more games, and he has certainly shown already that he has the quality as a player, but so far, I believe he needs that confidence and feeling of belonging that can sometimes be lost when being constantly loaned and then not involved in the first team sessions. Ryan Mason has already spoken of feeling much more involved with AVB than he ever was under Harry.
Add the likes of Massimo Luongo, Harry Kane, whose injury last night for Norwich was hopefully not serious, and several others, the future is bright. There is always a need to balance youth and experience, which may well be the only thing missing for some of these players making a regular impact at WHL. This is for me one of the areas, that is a minor negative with the twenty-five man squads and the allocation of over 21 players. does this help or inhibit the development of players that are home-grown but perhaps need a little more time to make that final push, but have to be sold or loaned as they effectively either run out of time or are kept in the reserves as senior players with experience always get the nod...