(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)
Our under 18’s get their 2020/21 season off on Saturday morning when they take on London rivals West Ham United at Little Heath, in their first Premier League South game of the new season (kick off is at 11am). Head coach Matt Taylor currently has 25 players who are a part of his under 18 squad for this season (not including under 16’s who stepped up to play in friendlies during pre-season), this number of players in the squad is very unlikely to change, as players at this level very rarely go out on loan. After not having played a proper game of football since late February prior to this seasons pre-season friendlies, Matt Taylor’s under 18 side played four friendlies during pre-season. Playing against the likes of Oxford United and Ipswich Town’s under 18’s at Hotspur Way, Spurs won two of their four games however, results aside like for our under 23’s, our under 18’s would have just been so happy to have been playing football again in a competitive scenario. Last season Spurs’ under 18’s finished in fourth place in the Premier League South, 14 points of champions Fulham. Spurs had a bit of a difficult start last season due to it being a very different and new squad of players from the 2018/19 season when Spurs finished as runners up in the league however, we did come good last season. Playing an attractive brand of attacking football under Matt Taylor, we also looked well structured and were good at scoring goals and breaking teams down. Some of last seasons standout players for the young Lilywhites, were in my opinion Max Robson, Marqes Muir, Rafferty Pedder (now part of the under 23’s), Dermi Lusala, Kacper Kurylowicz (now part of the under 23’s) and J’Neil Bennett (now part of the under 23’s). We have got a really talented squad of 25 under 18 players for this season, with some of the younger ones stepping up to represent our under 18’s in competitive games last season. Winger and now first year scholar Roshaun Mathurin was one of those players to step up to the under 18’s on occasions last season, a very skilful player with an eye for goal, Mathurin didn’t look at all out of place in the team.
Left back and England under 16 international Jordan Hackett was another player who stepped up to play for the under 18’s, and I thought he looked really comfortable in the side both from an attacking and defensive point of view. Good at getting up and down the left flank, Hackett looked like a terrific passer and crosser of the ball, and he also read the game really well. Another England under 16 international in striker Dane Scarlett was another player who stepped up to play for our under 18’s on five occasions last season while a still a schoolboy, during the early stages of the campaign before getting injured. A centre forward with fantastic off the ball movement, Scarlett impressively featured along with fellow first year scholar Alfie Devine (also 16) for our first team on two occasions during pre-season. Yet another England under 16 international, recent signing from Wigan Athletic Alfie Devine was a mainstay in Wigan’s under 18 side last season while still a schoolboy, and he helped them to reach the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup. Operating primarily as a number eight in midfield, the highly technical Devine is clearly another very talented player who could well step up to play for our under 23’s during some point this season. So they are just some of the under 18’s first year scholars who I personally feel could make a big impact on the team this season. However, we also have a number of international youth players in our under 16’s for the coming season, one of those is England and Northern Ireland youth international and centre forward Jamie Donley who played for our under 18’s on three occasions during pre-season, scoring four goals. With a lack of recognised centre forwards in the under 18’s this season, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the schoolboy get a fair few minutes for Matt Taylor’s side this season just like Dane Scarlett did last season. As for the second year scholars I personally believe that the highly talented goal scoring midfielder Max Robson (17) could be one our under 18’s key players this season before he steps up to under 23’s, quick, skilful and clinical in front of goal, Robson is a real creative force and goal threat.
Central defender Marqes Muir (17) really grew into the 2019/20 season as it progressed and he was another very good performer, who could become a key player again in the side this season. Skilful and tenacious right back Dermi Lusala (17) is yet another player who again after having a very good 2019/20 season, could become another key player in the team, although I would imagine that he would step up to play for our under 23’s on occasions, as he did play for them on two occasions during pre-season. We have such a talented group of second year scholars however, the final second year scholar that I’d just like to briefly focus in on is 17 year old central midfielder and Scotland youth international Michael Craig. The twin brother of Matthew Craig who featured more prominently for our under 18’s last season, Michael who is a very intelligent midfield player, started the first few games of last season well before unfortunately getting injured last August. He hasn’t played a game since then and he wasn’t in the squad for any of our under 18’s pre-season friendlies. As it stands (I am not sure whether or not the Premier League Under 18 Cup is taking place this season) our under 18’s will just be competing in the Premier League South and the FA Youth Cup this season. Matt Taylor’s side will play two new teams this season in the Premier League South, one of them is Crystal Palace who join the division after being granted academy category one status (Swansea City dropped out of the league and are now a category two academy side). While the other team were already a category one academy side (West Bromwich Albion) but have joined the Premier League South having previously been in the northern division to make up the numbers, after Leeds United and Burnley joined that league. With teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham in the Premier League South, the league is always a very competitive and difficult one. However, with a very talented group of first and second years scholars this season, Spurs could in my personal opinion mount a challenge for the title just like we did during the 2018/19 season.
The FA Youth Cup on the other hand is an extremely difficult competition to win however, if players such as Dane Scarlett, Alfie Devine, Max Robson and Marqes Muir play for us in those games, then I feel that we have a good chance of going far in that competition. However, going back to the league which starts on Saturday, some of the standout fixtures include the North London Derby against Arsenal who we face for the first time in almost a year in game week two. Always an exciting and highly competitive fixture, that game is always one to look out for when the fixtures come out every season. However, games against the likes of talented, attacking and highly structured sides such as Chelsea and Fulham are always very difficult ones, as is the London Derby against West Ham who are another very good team. And in more recent seasons games against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Reading have been difficult ones, and I would expect more of the same this season. When you support a club like Spurs who have one of the best academy set ups in the country if not Europe, you just can’t not be optimistic going into the start of each new season, and this season is no different for me. I feel that we have another fantastic squad of players who can achieve great things in both the Premier League South and the FA Youth Cup this season and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they get on. As I said in my preview of our under 23’s season, we are of course living in uncertain times due to the current situation, and as is the case with all of our under 23’s games, all home matches at the moment will not be open to fans. That is of course disappointing news however, it is also extremely understandable too, but I remain optimistic and hopeful that fans will be allowed back into see games in the not so distant future. In the mean time I shall keep on doing my match previews for games as well as keeping fans updated on Twitter about how our under 18’s and 23’s get on and what the results are, and who scored our goals and got our assists. As for away games at under 18 level I am unsure whether certain clubs will allow me in to report on games at this time, but I shall find that out nearer to the time.
I would like to wish our under 18 side all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season and I have no doubt that they will do the club proud.
Spurs’ under 18 squad for the 2020/21 season (as it stands):
Goalkeepers: Thimothée Lo-Tutala, Isak Solberg, Aaron Maguire, Adam Hayton.
Fullbacks: Dermi Lusala, Jeremy Kyezu, Kallum Cesay, Jordan Hackett.
Central defenders: Marqes Muir.
Midfielders: Michael Craig, Matthew Craig, Nile John, Yago Santiago, Max Robson, Alfie Devine, Jez Davies, Khalon Haysman, Dante Cassanova, Oliver Turner, Renaldo Torraj.
Wingers: Romaine Mundle, Eddie Carrington, Roshaun Mathurin.
Forwards: Tarrelle Whittaker, Dane Scarlett.
Our under 18’s Premier League South fixtures for the 2020/21 season can be viewed on the official Tottenham Hotspur website.