(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)
Our under 23’s get their 2020/21 season off on Saturday afternoon when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion’s under 23 side in their first PL2 league game of the new season (kick off is at 1pm). Head coach Wayne Burnett currently has 27 players who are now a part of his under 23 side (not including players who have stepped up to play for them from the under 18’s during pre-season). However, this will of course likely change as players head out on loan during the transfer window, but for now Burnett’s side includes some experienced younger players of which includes a Cyprus international in 23 year old Anthony Georgiou, who played all five of our under 23’s pre-season friendlies. Other experienced players include Brandon Austin, George Marsh, Kazaiah Sterling and Shilow Tracey, I would personally imagine that all of these players will be loaned out at some point during this transfer window. After Wayne Burnett’s side enjoyed a good pre-season which saw them lose only one of their five pre-season friendlies, and that was against League Two side Leyton Orient, things are looking good for this seasons PL2 campaign. In what sounded like a series of impressive performances against some good senior teams, arguably the stand out win of Spurs’ under 23’s pre-season was their 3-1 triumph over League Two side Colchester United at Hotspur Way. Other good results included a 2-2 draw with Crawley Town, a 3-1 win over Dulwich Hamlet and a 2-2 draw with London rivals Arsenal’s under 23’s last Saturday. It’s always great to go into a new season with good form and that good form is particularly impressive when you realise that when Spurs played their first pre-season friendly last month, that was their proper game of football since March. Last season Spurs finished in tenth place in PL2 Division One and ten points of bottom of relegated bottom side Wolverhampton Wanderers. I thought that we did quite well last season in general, although we did struggle a bit for goals with the now departed Armando Shashoua being our top scorer with five.
However, after starting last season really brightly with two impressive wins over Liverpool and Manchester City, Spurs did have a difficult period where they did struggle a bit to pick up wins, but they did recover in time to finish relatively strongly to avoid the drop to Division Two. Some of last seasons standout players for the young Lilywhites, were in my opinion Armando Shashoua, Harvey White, Jubril Okedina, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Dilan Markanday and Shilow Tracey. The 27 players who are a part of Wayne Burnett’s under 23 side this season are all very talented young footballers who to be at a club like Spurs, have to be special. However, some of the players who could prove to be really important (most of which are players who are yet to make their PL2 debut) include Rafferty Pedder, Elliot Thorpe, Chay Cooper, Max Robson, Dermi Lusala and Aaron Skinner. Only one of those listed players has actually featured for our under 23’s in a competitive match however, I personally believe that they could all have breakthrough seasons for our under 23’s, and make a really positive impact on the team in games and on their results in the process. Attack minded midfielder Rafferty Pedder (18) is a player who can operate either as a CAM or CM, although he did seem to play at right back against Arsenal’s under 23’s on Saturday. A player with really good pace and agility, the midfielder did really well for our under 18’s last season, and he made more competitive appearances for them than any other player. Pedder is a skilful player who loves to drive forward with the ball, make clever passes and also get stuck in to make challenges, he is one player who I believe could make a good impression on Burnett’s side this season. Elliot Thorpe (19) is quite a similar player and he loves to get forward with the ball at his feet, and take players on with skill. Thorpe can play either as a ten, eight or four, and he made a really positive impression on the under 23 side last season despite not getting a lot of minutes.
Skilful, versatile and direct winger Chay Cooper is another player who is yet to make his competitive debut for our under 23’s, but after an excellent season with our under 18’s last season, he could well be ready to make the step up to under 23 football and make a positive impact with his important goals, creativity and high work rate. Meanwhile 17 year old second year scholar Max Robson was outstanding for our under 18 side last season, contributing goals and assists, as well exceptional off the ball pressing. The Haywards Heath born player who can operate as a CM, CAM or as a support striker, would be great to see step up and play for Wayne Burnett’s side on occasions this season as he continues to progress. Right back Dermi Lusala who I recently wrote a long piece on, is another second year scholar who had a really good 2019/20 season for our under 18’s. Quick, skilful and tenacious, the Londoner who can also fill in at centre half and left back if needed is a player who featured for our under 23’s on a couple of occasions during pre-season, and that could be a sign that he will be a part of the squad this season. Finally CDM or CB Aaron Skinner formerly of Bury and Bolton Wanderers and who joined Spurs last November, is a player who also did well at under 18 level last season. Now in his first season as a professional at Spurs, Skinner played in all five of our pre-season friendlies after joining up with the under 23 side for this season. A tough tackling and tireless CDM who reads the game to good effect, Skinner is also good at centre back (predominantly LCB) and being good on the ball and bringing it out from the back well are real strengths of his game. More established under 23 players such as wingers Dilan Markanday and Maurizio Pochettino, central defender Malachi Fagan-Walcott (currently injured) and right back Jubril Okedina are all players who could become key members of the team throughout the season. Having featured prominently for Spurs’ first team during pre-season, young players Harvey White and Dennis Cirkin have both played a considerable amount games for the under 23’s over recent seasons.
However, White and Cirkin could well become a part of the first team squad this season due to the hectic schedule that the first team have. We could also see a Spurs side full of under 23 players for our League Cup third round tie against either Leyton Orient or Plymouth Argyle, due to the fact that our first team also could have a Europa League qualifier just two days later. So that is something to keep an eye on however, going back to our under 23’s season, as it stands they will only be competing in the PL2 this season and they will not be competing in the EFL trophy due to the heavy schedule of games that Spurs have this season. I am not sure whether or not the Premier League Cup or the Premier League International Cup will be taking place this season however, I am sure that the Premier League will inform everyone regarding that soon. Back to the PL2, we obviously start off against Brighton & Hove Albion, a side who we have never beaten at this level in the PL2 before. They are a good technical side with good physicality about them, and we have found it fairly difficult to play against them over the last two seasons, drawing once against them and losing on three occasions. So that will be a tough opening game at Hotspur Way however, some other difficult fixtures include playing Blackburn Rovers who are again a very physical side but who are also very aggressive both on and off the ball. Over the last two meetings between the sides we have conceded seven goals and scored zero, so playing them will be tough as always. Some other standout fixtures include the North London Derby against Arsenal, we play our local rivals on Sunday the 27th of September at Meadow Park, and on Friday the 29th January at Hotspur Way. Other big games include a London Derby against the reigning champions of Division One Chelsea, and fellow London rivals West Ham who we face for the first time in almost two years when we play them in game week two. And the final team who we will face this season that I would like to focus in on briefly is Derby County.
Derby are another physical team who do like to field overage players however, they are good at moving the ball around the park at pace and also particularly good at getting good crosses into the box. So the two games against them will be tough however, to be honest all games in this competitive division are tough ones and teams have to be performing really well to come away from these games with points. I’m of course really looking forward to seeing how Spurs get on in the PL2 this season and I wish all of the lads the very best of luck however, we are living in uncertain times due to the current situation. The club have said that there will be no fans let into either our under 23 or under 18 home games (all of which are being played at Hotspur Way) until it is safe for fans to return. So in regards to me reporting on games it does look like it will be a little while before I return to reporting on our under 18’s and 23’s matches however, I remain optimistic and hopeful that fans will be allowed back into see games in the not so distant future. As for away games at under 23 level, some of these games starting next month will be played at stadiums so that could mean that some fans are allowed into those games. However, if that is not to be the case then hopefully some of our away league games will be streamed by the home club, but as I say I will take every game as it comes at the moment. I am feeling positive about this season for our under 23’s and I really think that they will have good season in the league and yes there are some top teams in our division. However, we have quality players and I just hope that we start the season strongly, see how it goes and build on that. As for my match previews that I do for every under 23 game, I will keep on doing them this season.
Spurs’ under 23 squad for the 2020/21 season (as it stands):
Goalkeepers: Alfie Whiteman, Brandon Austin, Jonathan De Bie, Josh Oluwayemi, Kacper Kurylowicz.
Full backs: Dennis Cirkin, Jubril Okedina.
Central defenders: Aaron Skinner, Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster.
Midfielders: George Marsh, Jamie Bowden, Jack Roles, Elliot Thorpe, Rafferty Pedder, Harvey White.
Wingers: Anthony Georgiou, Shilow Tracey, Dilan Markanday, J’Neil Bennett, Jeremie Mukendi, Maurizio Pochettino, Chay Cooper.
Forwards: Kazaiah Sterling, Rodel Richards, Kion Etete, Enock Asante.
Under 23 players out on loan: TJ Eyoma (on a season long loan with Lincoln City), Troy Parrott (on a season long loan with Millwall), Oliver Skipp (Technically part of the Spurs first team. He is on a season long loan with Norwich City).
Our under 23’s PL2 league fixtures for the 2020/21 season can be viewed on the official Tottenham Hotspur website.