My piece on a mainstay of the Spurs Under 18 side during the 2020/21 season – Matthew Craig:

Previously of Watford, prior to joining Spurs as a schoolboy, versatile young footballer Matthew Craig was a regular and important player for Spurs’ Under 18 side during the season just gone. Like his twin brother Michael, Matthew is about to become a first year professional with the club (beginning at the start of the 2021/22 season), as he recently signed his first professional contract with them, which runs until 2023. The former Dame Alice Owen’s School pupil was a county cup winner and 1,500m district champion during his school days, and Matthew Craig has also represented Scotland at youth level, and he played for them at the 2018 Victory Shield. Obviously over the course of the last 2020/21 season I haven’t seen anywhere near as much of the Spurs Under 18 side as I would have in previous seasons when I would report on every game, home and away. However, and while part of this piece on Matthew Craig is based on watching the Barnet born footballer play during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons, I still feel as if I have watched more than enough of Matthew for Spurs, to be able to write this short piece on what type of player he is. A central midfielder by trade, Matthew Craig (18) first made his Spurs Under 18 competitive debut back in the 2018/19 season. When the then schoolboy footballer came off the bench in the same game that his brother also did, to help Spurs to defend a two goal lead against Reading, away. Matthew did well in that game, and then a couple of weeks later he came off the bench again for the Spurs Under 18 side in a league game Aston Villa. Signing scholarship forms with Spurs for the start of the 2019/20 season, Matthew showed his versatility during the early stages of that season, playing at right-back and centre-back.

Putting in two really good and assured performances against Norwich City and Swansea City in central defence at the beginning of the competitive season, Matthew Craig followed this up by playing in his main position of CDM for the next game against West Ham. However, an injury sustained in the following game against Southampton at their Staplewood training ground ruled him out until the January of 2020, with Craig eventually returning to play in a league game against Brighton as a substitute. He played three further competitive games for Matt Taylor’s Spurs side, playing well in all three. But his best game for Spurs that season came in the final one, just before the season was curtailed, when Matthew registered two good assists in a 6-1 league win over Southampton at Hotspur Way. The next season (2020/21) the midfielder played 23 competitive games for Spurs’ Under 18 side, often alongside his twin brother Michael in central midfield, but Matthew would have almost certainly have played in every competitive game for the Spurs Under 18 side that season, but for missing the final games of the league season, presumably because of injury. He established himself as an important member of Matt Taylor’s side during the season just gone, and getting such a good amount of games will do him good for next season, when he steps up permanently to the Under 23 side. So what type of player is Matthew Craig? Well when he plays as a central defender (RCB) the midfielder has always impressed me whenever I have seen him play there. He keeps good positioning and is particularly good at making blocks, as he showed in the FA Youth Cup fourth round tie against AFC Wimbledon early in the year. His fine reading of the game also helps him to play well at centre-half, as well as his ability on the ball to bring it out from the back.

As a midfielder Matthew plays usually as a number 4, and he is more deep-lying than his brother Michael, who likes to get forward more. An intelligent and tigerish midfield player who likes to watch Harry Winks play for Spurs, Matthew is very good at anticipating the play and he works very hard off the ball, covering a lot of ground during matches, thanks to his great stamina. With good passing ability, the midfielder is good at keeping the ball moving in the central areas of the pitch, just like somebody like Harry Winks does, for example. Never overcomplicating things when he is on the ball, Matthew has a calming presence about him on the pitch, but he is also a tenacious player despite not being the biggest of players. Good at making challenges and getting in front of opposing teams players at the vital moment, one thing that Craig does which I really like is that he is so often looking to make that forward pass whenever he receives the ball. However, most importantly he is a very consistent performer and a reliable player, who looks to have a very bright future ahead of him in the game. And he is at a great club for producing defensive minded midfielders. I would like to wish Matthew all the very best of luck for next season, when I hopefully will see him play again on a regular basis. He should be proud of all that he has achieved during the season just gone.

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