With the first pre-season match for the Spurs first team (against Leyton Orient) just 12 days away, I thought that I would write a little piece on six Spurs Academy players that I’m personally hoping will feature for Spurs’ first team in pre-season. Nuno Espíritio Santo’s side are so far scheduled to play four pre-season friendlies, starting with a friendly game with Leyton Orient to compete for the JE3 Foundation Trophy on the 17th of July. We later face MK Dons in a friendly, before taking on Chelsea and Arsenal in The Mind Series, in August. So that’s four pre-season matches which could well mean a good number of opportunities for Spurs Academy players and Academy graduates to feature in. Below are just six players that I am personally hoping might feature in those friendly games, but obviously there are a good number of other players who I do believe will most probably play for the first team in pre-season, and that I would also like to see play. Such as Dane Scarlett, Alfie Whiteman, Nile John, Dennis Cirkin and Alfie Devine. However, the six players that I have listed are just some of the players that I personally would really like to see (some are yet to play for the first team) play for Spurs’ first team, but of course I would be delighted to see other Spurs Academy players and graduates also play for Spurs in those four friendly matches.
Jubril Okedina: Versatile 20 year old defender Jubril Okedina enjoyed a fine 2020/21 season. He spent the first half of the season with our Under 23 side, where he captained the side on eight occasions. Okedina spent the second half of the season out on loan with a very successful Cambridge United side, and he impressed for them during his 15 competitive appearances, and most of his appearances came at RCB. A good reader of the game who is also good in the air and in the challenge, the Londoner is more than capable of playing as a right-back and also as a centre-half. Jubril missed most of his first season full-time at Spurs’ Academy because of injury (he made only two appearances in 2017/18), but he would end up becoming an important player for the Spurs Under 18 side during the following 2018/19 season. A defender who has good pace and who is good at getting up and down the right flank when playing at right-back, Okedina is good on the ball and at bringing it out from the back. However, he also has good passing ability, and he showed on loan at Cambridge United that he wasn’t afraid to make long and ambitious forward passes from deep. A player who has got and better and better in my opinion over the last couple of seasons, Okedina actually made the bench for Spurs’ senior team under former manager José Mourinho, in a pre-season friendly against Watford last year. I’m a big fan of Okedina’s style of play and the way in how he defends in games, and also how cool and composed he is under pressure, and I certainly think that he would do well if given a chance with the first team this pre-season.
TJ Eyoma: After making a very impressive total of 52 competitive appearances with League One side Lincoln City last season, defender TJ Eyoma will have gained a lot of valuable experience from playing regular first team football. The London born player is an assertive centre-half who can also play as a right-back, and Eyoma showed this throughout the 2020/21 season. He has made well over 50 competitive appearances for Spurs’ Under 23 side since making debut for them during the 2016/17 season, and the 21 year old has already made his competitive first team debut for the club (in 2018/19). TJ also got a good amount of game time during the 2018/19 pre-season and he particularly impressed in a friendly against AC Milan. Very good on the ball and with his distribution, Eyoma brings the ball out from the back really well, but he also defends well inside the penalty area and is dominant in the air. However, he doesn’t make sliding challenges as much as other defenders, as he seems to prefer to make standing challenges. He is also impressive at right-back and has shown over the years that he isn’t afraid to get forward to join the forward players, while showing good skill on the ball. Eyoma is also very good at making important blocks. I would personally really like to see TJ get a good amount of minutes in pre-season, especially as he has just returned from a successful loan at Lincoln City. I am confident that he would certainly do well at Championship level next season on loan, but it would be great to see TJ play for Spurs again during pre-season.
Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: Elegant and very versatile defender Brooklyn Lyons-Foster can play as a right-back, RCB, LCB, left-back, as a four and as an eight in midfield. The 20 year old from north London has been a regular for the Spurs Under 23 side over the last couple of seasons, and he even made his debut for them as a 16 year old back in 2017. A tall defender who has great technical ability, Lyons-Foster was outstanding during his first year of scholarship at Spurs in 2017/18, and he has progressed well since then. A former England Under 17 international who played for his country alongside the likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Brooklyn is a real footballing centre-half. He is quick, very good on the ball, has fine distribution, takes responsibility in situations, and from what I’ve seen he is a good leader. Lyons-Foster is also very capable of reading the game to great effect, and also at making last ditch blocks and challenges. Personally speaking I reckon that he is physically ready to play men’s football on a regular basis, and what will help as well is the fact that he can play in so many different positions. A decisive defender who likes to join the attack in situations, the former Watford schoolboy player has impressed me whenever he has played as a number four in recent years, with his assertiveness in that role and passing ability making him standout when playing that role. Last season he made 21 competitive appearances for Spurs’ Under 23 side and was also directly involved in four goals (two goals and two assists). Lyons-Foster was actually a part of Mauricio Pochettino’s 2019/20 pre-season squad that traveled to Asia, although he didn’t get any minutes.
I would really like to see Brooklyn get some game time in pre-season to really show fans what he’s about, and what type of defender he is.
Oliver Skipp: Having already made 23 competitive first team appearances for Spurs, midfielder Oliver Skipp certainly won’t be a new name to Spurs fans. The Welwyn Garden City born player was excellent at 2020/21 Championship champions Norwich City last season, featuring in all but one Championship game for them. Skipp is a tigerish defensive midfield player, but apart from his defensive duties which he does so well, he can also offer a lot going forward. The 20 year old who turns 21 in September made a really good impression on the Norwich side last season, and the player who constantly would play above his age group for Spurs at Academy level has a tremendous footballing brain. Skipp, as many fans will know is great at breaking up play in the central areas of the pitch, and also at keeping things moving. However, Oliver is also very good at receiving the ball in the middle of the pitch and then driving forward with the ball at pace. A tireless but skilful midfielder, Skipp has incredible stamina, but he is also a very mature player, who likes to lead on the pitch. He is constantly pointing things out on the pitch and giving advice to his teammates. Without doubt one of the best players that I have ever seen play at Academy level in England, now could well be the time when Skipp takes that next step up and starts to get regular football for Spurs. This could also allow Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to get rest next season, as I believe that Skipp would do a fine job in Premier League games, as he has already shown on occasions. However, for this pre-season and in particular the friendly games against Chelsea and Arsenal, it would be great to see Skipp get good minutes in both games.
Elliot Thorpe: Creative midfielder Elliot Thorpe (20) can play either as a four, an eight or as a CAM. A tenacious midfield player, who didn’t play an awful lot of competitive football at Under 18 level for Spurs, after a fine season with Spurs’ Under 23 side in 2020/21 Thorpe earned his first call up to the Wales Under 21 side, at the end of that season. Scoring two goals last season from 18 competitive appearances (both goals game in a 4-1 home win over Liverpool) the Hinchingbrooke born player has looked really good whenever I have seen him over the course of the last two seasons. Constantly looking to receive the ball into his feet, the technical midfielder likes to accelerate forward with the ball into promising forward positions. He has a good weight of pass, makes good forward runs off the ball and can also produce moments of magic in the final third, but he is also a very hardworking player who likes to get stuck in and make challenges. Formerly of Cambridge United, Thorpe is definitely a player that I would really like to see play for the first team in pre-season, and he has yet to play for the first team. I think that Thorpe wouldn’t look out of place playing for Spurs’ first team in pre-season, as he is a very technical player. I would be intrigued to see him get the chance to play for them as he is a player who I rate very highly.
Troy Parrott: Republic of Ireland international Troy Parrott (19) had some difficult times out on loan last season. But there is no doubting the centre-forwards’ obvious talent, and he showed this in an end of season friendly against Andorra for the Republic of Ireland, when he changed the game by scoring two well taken goals. Parrott was out on loan at Millwall last season, where after a promising pre-season injuries disrupted his progress at the Championship side. He later went out on loan to League One side Ipswich Town, where he spent the second half of the season. He scored two goals from 18 competitive appearances for Ipswich, and he impressed with his fine runs off the ball and desire and hunger to try and impact games. Parrott was a very prolific centre-forward for Spurs at Academy level, and the player who has already made four competitive appearances for Spurs’ first team did impress in the 2019/20 pre-season. With Spurs playing in the Europa Conference League this season, a good pre-season for the talented and clinical striker could well mean that he gets plenty of game time in the cup competitions for the Spurs first team, unless he goes out on loan again. He has excellent movement off the ball and is a really good finisher, who also works incredibly hard to press opposition defenders.