Some notes on how Spurs’ academy players got on with the first team during pre-season in their four friendlies:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

After our first team played their last friendly of pre-season against Championship side Watford on Saturday afternoon, I thought that I would write a piece on how our academy players got on, after watching all four of our friendlies. A number of our academy players got chances in the four friendly games against Championship opposition, with Cameron Carter-Vickers, Harvey White and Dennis Cirkin being the youngsters who featured most prominently. 19 year old Jamie Bowden and first year scholars Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine also got some game time from the bench, while 19 year old Jubril Okedina and 21 year old George Marsh were unused substitutes in our 2-1 defeat to Watford on Saturday. 22 year old USA international Cameron Carter-Vickers featured the most out of all our academy players, and the centre half played two half’s and two full games from the four. A strong central defender who is also good on the ball, the Southend born player did well in my opinion. After being out on numerous loans over recent seasons, I thought that Carter-Vickers didn’t look out of place and I also thought that he showed during these games his quality on the ball. After a really successful loan with Luton Town during the second part of last season as he helped them to beat the drop in the Championship, Carter-Vickers was always one of the standout players at under 18 and 23 level when he was coming through the ranks at Spurs. And although he wasn’t really tested in much of our four friendlies, I thought that he kept good positioning and was just solid in his play, plus his distribution was good. There was one moment in the first half of the Watford game where he slid in and put his body on the line to put a Watford player off when he was trying to latch onto a low cross from the right hand side, that was brave defending from Carter-Vickers, something that he was always known for at youth level. It will be interesting to see whether Carter-Vickers stays at the club for part of this season due to the many fixtures that we have across the first stage of the season, or whether he will be loaned out again for the sixth time in his career.

18 year old central midfielder Harvey White who turns 19 later this month was the second academy player to feature the most for Spurs during pre-season. The Maidstone born former England under 18 international featured in all four of our friendlies, playing one half in two of those games, around half of a half in one and just over 80 minutes in our final game against Watford. A versatile player who has featured both at centre half and at left back at youth level for Spurs, White is a clever midfield player. One who is valiant off the ball as he showed on some occasions in pre-season, but he is also so composed, efficient and tidy with the ball. The first year professional showed that composure in the games that he played in against the likes of Birmingham City and Watford, and he really held his own and didn’t look at all out of place in any of the games that he played in. He kept things moving in the central areas of the pitch but he also had the confidence to make some ambitious and long forward passes, in one of our games he also delivered a peach of a free kick onto the head of Eric Dier who came close to hitting the back of the net. An expert set piece taker whose deliveries are consistently excellent, White also impressed with his tireless running on the pitch for José Mourinho’s side, as well as tracking back well too. White got back to help fill in for players who were perhaps out of position and he made a couple of good challenges. However, out of all the games that White played in during his second pre-season with the first team, the game against Watford during the weekend just gone particularly stands out. He was really efficient in midfield during that game and his anticipation and reading of the game was good, the teenager got on the ball an awful lot against Watford and he was just very tidy with it. He showed that combative nature of his game and a real willingness to scrap for the ball, he also got back well during a particularly dangerous Watford attack to slide in on a player in the Spurs box to help prevent him or rather putting him off from finding the back of the net.

White looked very mature out on the pitch at Vicarage Road and against some physical and high quality players, I felt that he took to the game really well. I can remember him making his competitive debut for our under 18’s in an away league game against Norwich City back in the 2017/18 season as if it was just yesterday. The confidence, composure and ease in which he played in midfield during that game was something that he has been able to replicate for them, for the under 23’s and for the first team in friendlies during recent seasons. A really exciting player is young Harvey White, and his creativity from deep and his excellent passing range and ability to make defence splitting forward passes is something which is really special and a key strength of his game. Of course he is also very, very good on the ball but also his ability to shield it from opponents is another strength to the Carrick-esque young players game. White can also play further forward in a more advanced midfield role, and he is a player who I think has deceptive pace but who can also take players on however, his passing ability, composure and fantastic vision are his best attributes, and I could personally see White making his competitive debut for Spurs during the early parts of the season. Fellow 18 year old Dennis Cirkin played the third most minutes of all our academy players during pre-season, and the Dublin born player who was mentioned by Spurs manager José Mourinho during a press conference last season, was another who impressed in recently friendlies. The England youth international who operates primarily at left back, is another real talent that has come through the ranks at Hotspur Way during recent years. Cirkin played in all four of this pre-seasons friendlies, and he started off by putting in a fine second half performance at left back against League One side Ipswich Town in friendly number one. Another player who is very good on the ball and who reads the game well, Cirkin defended solidly during that game whenever tested, even though Spurs were on top of the game throughout.

The player who captained our under 18’s on many occasions last season, followed up his performance against Ipswich Town by also looking good in the next two games against Reading and Birmingham City respectively, as he combined both his defensive and attacking duties well. Cirkin showed good defensive discipline and a real calmness whenever he was tested down his side of the pitch however, his most testing game came against Watford at the weekend. Once again playing at left back Cirkin held his own at the back as well as looking good going forward however, the young man was tested when Watford defender Christian Kabasele ran at him and took him on. Kabasele managed to get the wrong side of Cirkin inside the Spurs box and after making some contact with him the referee adjudged it to have been enough for him to point to the spot. However, once again I thought that the young left back did himself proud over the course of the four friendly games, and he is another player with so much potential who we could be seeing more of for Spurs, this time in competitive games this season. A player who possesses a fair amount of pace, Cirkin is a player who is great at going forward and beating players with his skill. He also loves to embark on long slaloming runs which with his fine balance and strength makes him hard to disposes. A good passer of the ball who can also come inside, Cirkin is also strong defensively and he likes to get stuck in and make tenacious challenges. Having grown up in Tottenham and supported the club from a young age, 19 year old Jamie Bowden getting more minutes for the Spurs team during the pre-season for the third consecutive season would have been another proud moment for him. Bowden is a really classy midfield player who after getting a good 16 minutes against Ipswich Town in our first friendly, where he played interestingly as a CAM. Bowden got a good number of touches during that time and he also looked sharp on the pitch as well, the Republic of Ireland under 19 intenational also played in a further two friendly games against both Reading and Watford respectively.

Bowden didn’t get lots of minutes in both of those games (he got just over 25 minutes) however, he showed a real willingness to get involved and make an impression. The second year professional who was the captain of our under 23 side last season despite missing a fair few games with injury, Bowden got himself stuck in during the Watford game and he made decent challenge early on to stop a Watford attack. A really creative and tenacious and tigerish player who often operates as the deeper of a two in midfield, Bowden loves to spray the ball around the park, recycle possession and keep the ball moving as he doesn’t like too hold on to it for too long. Like Harvey White he is a player who shows real composure on the ball and he also knows when to get stuck in and and try to prevent an attack. A player who really impressed for the Republic of Ireland’s under 19 side when he made his debut against Denmark last season, Bowden could well get minutes for our first team in a competitive game this season early on in the campaign. The League Cup third round game against either Leyton Orient or Plymouth Argyle could be a game that a number of our youngsters feature in, due to us having two games in quick succession during that particular week. First year scholars Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine (both 16) also impressively got minutes for our first team during our four recent pre-season friendlies. Dane Scarlett is a centre forward who featured for our under 18’s in competitive games on five occasions last season scoring one goal, Scarlett impressed me with his off the ball movement and runs into the box during those games last season while still a schoolboy. The England under 16 international featured in the first two of our pre-season friendlies when he came on relatively late in the game. Showing good off the ball movement in the game against Ipswich Town, Scarlett came so close close to getting a foot on Jack Clarke’s whipped low cross from the right flank to tap it home. Scarlett is clearly a very talented player who I look forward to watching for Spurs at youth level over the next couple of seasons.

The other first year scholar to feature for our first team after coming late on in the first two games of pre-season was central midfielder Alfie Devine, a summer signing from League One side Wigan Athletic. Devine who only recently turned 16 did show some flashes of quality during his relatively short minutes on the pitch against Ipswich Town, and he is a clearly highly rated player to have featured for Spurs’ first team at only 16. I was also impressed with what I saw of Alfie Devine during the limited minutes that he got when we played Wigan Athletic’s under 18’s in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup last season, he is clearly a player who has a great passing range. I would like to wish all of our academy players who featured for Spurs’ first team in pre-season all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season.

My piece on Spurs’ exciting and unpredictable young winger J’Neil Bennett:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

J’Neil Lloyd Bennett was famously the first ever player to score a goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, when a Spurs under 18 side took on Southampton in a stadium test event back in March of 2019. Bennett has been at Spurs since under 14/15 level having previously been on fellow London club QPR’s books, the winger who is now a first year professional at Spurs, has worked his way up the various youth ranks at the club and is now a permanent member of Spurs’ under 23 squad. The Londoner who grew up in Camden and attended the the Haverstock School, has been an almost ever present member of our under 18 side over the last three seasons however, he has stepped up to play for our development side on a good number of occasions during that period of time. The speedy winger who signed a new contract with Spurs last season, enjoyed another fine season of development during the 2019/20 campaign, and as I have been doing quite a few Spurs academy player articles before the academy season starts, I thought that I would write a piece on the exciting J’Neil Bennett. The following piece like I do with all of our young academy players, is about giving Spurs fans who may not have seen much of our up and coming players a feel for what type of players they are, i.e. attributes and style of play. Having started the 2017/18 season as a schoolboy playing with our under 16’s, J’Neil Bennett burst onto the scene as a 15 year old when he made his competitive debut for Spurs’ under 18’s in a 5-2 league victory over Swansea City in November 2017. Bennett registered an assist in that game, and he would then go onto play in six more under 18 league games during that campaign. He would also play a good number of games for our under 18’s in the FA Youth Cup and in the inaugural Premier League Cup, and he played an important part in helping the side reach the final of that competition (he chipped in with two goals and six assists). 

Apart from impressing greatly on the domestic stage for our under 18’s as a schoolboy, J’Neil also impressed on the global stage for Spurs at under 17 level. Bennett put in several good and positive performances at the ALKASS Cup in Qatar, as well as helping Spurs to reach the final of the prestigious Torneo Internazionale Maggioni-Righi in Italy (he played at wing back on occasions in that tournament, and did a fine job). His experience of playing under 18 football as a schoolboy would stand  him in good stead for the following season after he had signed scholarship terms during the summer of 2018. The then first year scholar had a really good 2018/19 season, a mainstay in the under 18 side, the winger who predominantly featured out on the left flank was an important member of the side that mounted a Premier League South title challenge. Bennett started the season off well and he was a member of the Spurs under 17 side that won the Euro Youth Cup out Germany. The teenager who scored four goals in our under 18’s first two games of that season, also put in a really good shift up top as a centre forward in a 2-0 PL South win over Chelsea during the early stages of the season. He made 15 competitive appearances for our under 18’s (scoring ten goals and registering four assists) as well as 11 for our development side (he registered two assists for them), and six for our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League (registering one assist). Bennett was also a part of the Spurs under 19 side that competed in the annual Terborg Tournament in the Netherlands and he helped them to reach the semi-finals of that tournament. When he did step up to play for our development side during that particular season Bennett didn’t look at all out of place, and he put in impressive performances against the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City’s under 23’s, he also made his debut for England (he is also eligible to play for Jamaica) representing them at under 18 level during that season.

Unfortunately J’Neil missed most of pre-season for the 2019/20 campaign due to injury, and he only returned to playing in September of 2019 in an Under 18 Premier League Cup game against West Ham United. Bennett spent the season mostly with the under 18’s who he made fifteen competitive appearances for, plus an additional four with our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League, as well as two for our development side. Bennett was once again a standout player for our under 18’s, scoring many a spectacular goal in the process, and he was a real leader and experienced player in the side. From his 15 competitive appearances for our under 18’s during that shorter than usual season, Bennett scored seven goals and registered five assists. He also scored one goal and created another in the UEFA Youth League for our under 19’s, and he was in really good form prior to the season being curtailed in March, and had it have gone on for longer I could have seen him break into the under 23 side. The last campaign was in my opinion another very fine season of development for the 18 year old, who excelled on the under 18 stage, as well as looking good whenever he played for our under 19’s and development side. During this seasons pre-season J’Neil has played in three of our under 23’s four friendlies so far, scoring one goal in our 3-1 victory over National League South side Dulwich Hamlet last Saturday. So what type of player is J’Neil Bennett? Well he is a very exciting and unpredictable one, and having seen him play extensively now for over three seasons you still never know what he is going to do with the ball whenever he gets it into his feet. A player who has searing pace, is extremely agile and has good balance, Bennett is of good build and he is always very composed with the ball at his feet. A highly skilful two footed player (he has a favourite foot for crossing and shooting!) he wins a lot of fouls and penalties in particular, due to his skill and speed.

He loves to go on long galavanting forward runs and take on opposing teams players and beat them for pace and skill however, it is that unpredictability in his game which makes him so effective going forward, and difficult for defenders to stop. Just when you think he is going to sprint all the way to the byline and deliver in a cross, he will smartly cut inside onto his right foot and get away a shot. Him cutting inside onto his right or left foot is something that he loves to do in games, and he will often put his laces through the ball and look to find the far corner of the goal (I have simply lost count at the amount of times that he has scored goals in that fashion). The first year professional is a real flair player who loves to pull off outrageous pieces of skill, and the young player who is equally adept at playing on both flanks, models his game on the great Cristiano Ronaldo. Although he does love to cut inside and get shots away frequently, Bennett is also very direct in his play and he will take it to the byline, and when he gets there he likes to whip powerful crosses into the danger zone. A player who has a great first touch and close ball control, his positional play and movement off the ball is also good. Good at tracking back and with a good work rate, Bennett has also done well whenever he has played as a wing back/fullback before however, he is importantly an out and out winger. J’Neil does remind me of Wilfred Zaha and Anthony Knockaert in his style of play, as he is just so skilful, direct and unpredictable, but also a player who has a real eye for goal in games. There are just four games that Bennett has been involved in for Spurs that I would like to focus in on very briefly. One of those games came against Aston Villa’s under 18’s when Bennett was a 15 year old schoolboy and had only just burst onto the scene for Spurs at that level.

During this Premier League Cup group stage game in which Spurs won 4-1, Bennett was unplayable out on the left flank and with his pace and skill he had the Aston Villa defenders falling all over the place. He was trying outrageous things with the ball at his feet, and he was constantly looking to beat his man, deliver crosses into the danger zone and get shots away. He was just so exciting and unpredictable in his play and he scored a really good goal with a powerful low drive from an acute angle to cap off an excellent performance. The second game was against Newcastle United again at under 18 level in the Premier League Cup last season, Spurs lost this particular game 5-2. However, Bennett was the best player on the pitch that day despite the fact that the pitch was in a terrible way due to there being torrential rain on the day. Bennett again caused so many problems for the Newcastle defenders with his direct running, and he dazzled with his skill and unpredictable play once again. He scored a goal after cutting in from the left flank albeit it that it took a big deflection off of a Newcastle defender. However, Bennett was really potent during that game and he didn’t stop running at his man and looking to try different things both with and with out the ball. The game against Crvena zvezda’s under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League back in October of last season was much the same, a game where he was a thorn in the oppositions side for much of the match, particularly during the first half. Bennett pounced on an early error from the Serbian side at the back to powerfully side foot the ball into the goal to score the opener, and he would also set up another goal during the game. This game came not long after he had returned from injury, and he looked very sharp with his movement both on and off the ball. And the final game that I would like to focus in on briefly, came against senior opposition in League One side Gillingham in the Checkatrade Trophy last season. In that particular game he was once again extremely direct and he brought great variety to the game in his play. He had the beating of his man for the majority of the game however, he looked to cut inside onto his right foot and whip shots at goal at every opportunity.

The Gillingham game showed that Bennett could deal with the physicality of playing against senior opposition, and he dealt really well with playing against them. J’Neil should be very proud of the progress that he has made at Spurs over the last three seasons, and I would like to wish him all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season. 

My piece on Spurs’ promising young centre half Malachi Fagan-Walcott:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

18 year old central defender Malachi Fagan-Walcott is currently out injured with a knee injury (he subsequently had surgery) that he sustained in training not too long ago. The tall and skilful centre half who joined Spurs as a 14 year old from Norsemen F.C., had previously been a centre forward prior to joining Spurs and transitioning to central defence. Born in Edmonton, north London but brought up in Waltham Abbey, Fagan-Walcott was a talented swimmer and athlete during his schoolboy days. The first year professional is a very talented young player in my opinion, and he is also an England youth international having represented them from under 15 to under 17 level. Malachi is a player that I have seen a great deal of since he joined the Tottenham Hotspur academy full time in the summer of 2018, and with the 2020/21 season proper still not underway, i thought that I would write a piece on the young central defender. The following piece like I do with all of our young academy players, is about giving Spurs fans who may not have seen much of our up and coming players a feel for what type of players they are, i.e. attributes and style of play. A player who I have been aware of for some time, the right footed centre back who operates predominantly at RCB, first played for our under 18 side as a schoolboy (under 16). Fagan-Walcott made two competitive appearances for Spurs’ under 18 side during the 2017/18 season, he made his debut for them in a 5-2 PL South victory over Swansea City in Wales in November 2017. The defender then made a further appearance when he completed 45 minutes of our under 18’s 6-0 league defeat to Arsenal during the same month. The then schoolboy signed scholarship forms with Spurs during the summer of 2018, for the 2018/19 season. He played the first five under 18 league games of that season, where he partnered Luis Binks who he had a great understanding with since partnering him at the back since his under 15 days. 

Early on in that 2018/19 season Fagan-Walcott was a part of the Spurs under 17 side that won the Euro Youth Cup in Germany and he started the season in fine form for Spurs. Fagan-Walcott made his competitive debut for our development side in a Checkatrade Trophy group stage game against Crawley Town in September of 2018. At only 16 the young defender was outstanding as Spurs played in a back three alongside Jonathan Dinzeyi and Luis Binks. The then first year scholar would make a further competitive appearance for our development side in a PL2 game later on in the season, he would also make three appearances for our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League. The central defender impressed on the European stage for Spurs in that competition, putting in several fine defensive performances, with arguably the best one coming against PSV Eindhoven, a game in which he scored his first goal at that level for Spurs. The former Debden Park High School pupil made in total 16 competitive appearances for our very talented under 18 side during the 2018/19 season, and along with other first choice centre back Luis Binks, he was key to us mounting a title challenge in the league. After overcoming a couple of injury problems during the season, Fagan-Walcott also competed in the Future Cup in the Netherlands with a Spurs under 17 side. As well as playing at the Under 17 European Championships with England in Ireland, and in one of the games that I saw him play in that tournament against a very talented France side, he did very well at the back. However, he would miss the end of season Terborg Tournament with Spurs due to injury. This was an injury that would mean that he would miss next seasons pre-season and would have wait until September of 2019, when he completed 45 minutes of our under 18’s Premier League South fixture with Southampton down on the south coast.

 I thought that he looked really sharp, and did a fine job for Spurs in the minutes that played for Spurs in that game. He made a further five competitive appearances for our under 18’s that season. Fagan-Walcott also played in all six of our under 19’s UEFA Youth League games, once again forming a strong defensive partnership with former Spurs academy player Luis Binks. However, the young Englishman played up a lot for our development side who he made nine competitive appearances for during the season, he had some great games against the likes of Colchester United in the Checkatrade Trophy and Everton in the PL2. He also scored his first goal at that level in a 2-1 PL2 defeat to Brighton And Hove Albion in February of 2020. And Malachi’s fine form was rewarded when Spurs manager José Mourinho brought him on as a late substitute in our first teams UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg tie against German side RB Leipzig. It was some way for the 18 year old to make his competitive first team debut for Spurs on the biggest stage of all however, after the season was curtailed shortly afterwards, and after the restart, Fagan-Walcott unfortunately sustained a bad injury in training with the Spurs first team which subsequently required surgery. And he is currently still recovering from that injury and hasn’t featured for either our under 23’s or first team in pre-season. So what type of player is Malachi Fagan-Walcott? Well on the ball he is very comfortable and skilful with it at his feet, and he can bring it out from the back effectively like all of young central defenders. He is also a forward passer who has great vision for a pass, and who likes to pick out players with good cross field passes on his right foot. A physical and very combative defender who is assertive in games and gets across his man well and effectively, Fagan-Walcott has good awareness and reads the game and anticipates situations very well. 

Good at cutting out and intercepting dangerous forward passes, the teenager imposes himself well on games and he is always commanding in his play. Ever present across the back line and constantly well positioned, Fagan-Walcott loves to slide in to try and win the ball, and he also goes in strong and makes crunching challenges. However, arguably one of his best attributes is his ability to make last ditch blocks and challenges so superbly well, this is something which links in to his excellent positioning and reading of the game. Some of the heroic last ditch blocks and challenges that I have seen from him particularly in under 18 games, have been exceptional. A defender who has a great leap and jumping reach, the England youth international is very good and dominant in the air, and in matches he often wins the vast amount of his aerial duels. He is also a threat from corner kicks and free kicks due to being so good in the air, and he has scored a couple of fine headed goals in those situations during recent seasons. An effective communicator on the pitch who also has a great attitude, the young defender is an athletic player who has good pace, something which helps to recover well in difficult situations. An intelligent defender, Fagan-Walcott has put in some really good defensive performances since joining Spurs full time in 2018. However, there are three particular games that I would just like to briefly focus in on, in which he has played in since last season. One of those games came near the beginning of the 2018/19 season when Spurs’ development side played senior opposition in Crawley Town in the Checkatrade Trophy. During that game, Malachi who was then a 16 year old was excellent throughout the match, maintaining excellent positioning throughout, he also won virtually everything in the air. However, it was the way in which he read the game, and the ease in which defended and done everything at the back alongside both the older Jonathan Dinzeyi and Luis Binks, which was just so very impressive.

The second game came against a very talented Wigan Athletic under 18 side when Fagan-Walcott made some crucial defensive interventions. Never afraid to slide in, he made won some really difficult challenges while also maintaining excellent positioning alongside Luis Binks, and they were always on the same wavelength, Fagan-Walcott was also terrific in the air. And the final game that I’d like to focus in on came against Everton’s under 23 side in the PL2 last November. During that game the then second year scholar who once again played alongside Luis Binks at centre back, read the game really really well, but most importantly of all he played a big part in neutralising the threat of Everton’s potent centre forward Ellis Simms. He also showed his quality on the ball by bringing it out from the back with ease, as well as making some excellent long cross field passes to the Tottenham left winger Shilow Tracey. As you can tell from this piece, I am a big fan of the England youth international and I have high hopes for him at Spurs. The fact that he has already made his competitive first team debut for Spurs speaks volumes for how highly rated he must be at the club. Despite having to overcome a number of injuries during this time, Fagan-Walcott has done himself incredibly proud, and I have no doubts that he will come back stronger than ever from his current injury. I would like to wish Malachi all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season and I look forward to seeing him return to action.

My piece on Spurs’ young and direct development side winger Maurizio Pochettino:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

Right sided winger Maurizio Grippaldi Pochettino (19) is a young player who has developed nicely in my opinion, as he has worked his way up the various youth ranks at Spurs over the past couple of years. The second year professional who is the son of our former manager Mauricio, is a player that I personally believe has got stronger and stronger over the course of recent campaigns. The Barcelona born player who joined us along with his father Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton during the 2014/15 season (as an under 14), has risen up the ranks, from under 14’s to 15’s, 16’s, 18’s and now the under 23’s who he is currently playing for. Pochettino may be one of the most well known academy players at the club among Tottenham fans and with the skilful winger recently having signed a new contract at the club for the current season, I thought that it was a good time to write a piece on Maurizio. The following piece like I do with all of our young academy players, is about giving Spurs fans who may not have seen much of our up and coming players a feel for what type of players they are, i.e. attributes and style of play. Maurizio’s old club Southampton were very keen to keep him when his father Mauricio and his coaching staff left to join Spurs in 2014, as Mauricio explains in the book Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs. The wide man who is also eligible to represent Argentina at international level, first came on my radar as a Spurs player when I saw him play for Spurs at under 15 level in an academy showcase match against Ipswich Town, at Portman Road in Easter 2016. I thought that Pochettino gave a good and positive impression of himself in that particular game, where he had some nice touches out on the left wing, and you could also tell that he was a good technical player.

During the following 2016/17 season Pochettino spent the campaign playing with the under 16’s, before he signed a two year scholarship at Tottenham in the summer of 2017. He made his competitive debut for our under 18’s when he came on as a late substitute against his old club Southampton, in a 2-1 victory at their Staplewood training ground in September 2017. Pochettino made a further eight competitive appearances for our under 18’s that season (he made two starts), chipping in with one goal and one assist. He also impressed at two tournaments abroad with a Spurs under 17 side, the first being at the ALKASS Cup in Qatar, where he put in a series of fine performances out on the right wing. While the latter was in Italy at the Torneo Internazionale Maggioni-Righi where he was a part of the Spurs side which reached the final of that tournament. During the following 2018/19 campaign Maurizio was a lot more involved with our under 18’s in competitive games (he made 21 appearances in total for them), and he put in some fine individual performances as he registered three goals and one assist. The teenager also made two competitive appearances for Wayne Burnett’s development side during the same season. And in the season just gone and after signing a professional contract at Spurs to keep him at the club for the 2019/20 season, Pochettino stepped up permanently to the development side. I was impressed with how he played for both our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League, and also for our development side in the games that he played in the PL2 and the Checkatrade Trophy. After not featuring in any of our under 23’s pre-season games during that season, presumably due to injury, Pochettino seemed to get stronger and stronger in his play when the proper season progressed.

The winger chipped in with a total of one goal and four assists from a combined total of 14 appearances for our under 19’s and development side. Pochettino put in some very good performances that season against the likes of Crvena zvezda, Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 19 year old signed another new contract for the 2020/21 season this summer, and Pochettino has already played in all three of our under 23’s pre-season games to date (he impressed as a substitute in the game against Leyton Orient). So what type of player is Pochettino? Well as I have seen him develop over the years for our under 18’s and now 23’s, he plays quite like a traditional English winger in a number of ways. He has seemingly got quicker and stronger in his game over the last couple of seasons, and he has again seemingly become more direct in his play over the last two seasons. Embarking on dangerous surging runs more often, and also looking to beat his man down that right flank at every opportunity. Pochettino has a good first touch and close ball control, and it is obvious that he is a technically gifted and skilful winger too. Good at twisting and skilfully working his way out of tight spaces, the wide man uses the ball intelligently and he is reliable with it at his feet, and he holds onto it excellently well. Like his father Maurizio is a cool character on the pitch and he always looks nice and composed in his play, he also has good awareness both on and off the ball. On the ball he is a good passer, and he likes to make intelligent and deceptive forward thinking passes as well, Pochettino is also really good at both ends of the pitch. However, it is his crossing ability which is perhaps his strongest attribute of all, he loves to get to the byline and whip in powerful and pin point dangerous crosses. He has done that time and time again since he was a first year scholar, and they just get more frequent as he gets older.

The sheer accuracy of Pochettino’s crosses is very impressive but again it’s his awareness, and the fact that he always looks up, as well as the fact that his passing ability is so good that it allows him to deliver these types of crosses. A good athlete who works very hard for the team on the pitch, Maurizio tracks back after himself excellently well, and he is a good tackler too. However, going back to his offensive play, he has as I have already mentioned a great cross on him, he is also skilful and is a good passer of the ball, but he also has a really powerful shot at his disposal. Something that he has demonstrated quite a lot, particularly at under 18 level in games, but in my opinion I definitely think that he has become more confident in his overall play, which is something that is great to see. There are three particular games that Pochettino has been involved in for Spurs over the last two seasons, that I would just like to focus in on. One of them was back in the 2018/19 season in a PL South Under 18 game against Fulham at Hotspur Way, a game in which Spurs won 4-0. The then 18 year old right winger caused so many problems for the talented former Fulham fullback Cody Drameh down the right flank. The former Aldenham School pupil went on many a mazy forward run to beat the Fulham fullback, also playing with real flair, Pochettino created some really good chances for the Spurs forwards with his crossing, and he also tracked back really well too during that game. The second game that I’d like to focus in on was against Serbian side Crvena zvezda’s under 19’s last season in the UEFA Youth League, at Hotspur Way. Spurs won the game 9-2, and Pochettino was introduced to the action in the second half, and as soon as he got the ball into his feet he was constantly looking to take his man on and beat him, and then get to the byline and whip in a cross. 

Pochettino created two of our goals in that game and it was a very positive and purposeful performance from him. The final game which I will highlight was actually our under 23’s last competitive game, and their last PL2 game before last season was curtailed in March. The game was against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stevenage Borough’s Lamex Stadium, and Pochettino once again operated out on the right wing. He showed great pace and athleticism throughout his 73 minutes on the pitch, and he had the beating of the Wolves fullback throughout the contest. After latching onto a fine pass from Spurs right back Jubril Okedina down the line, Pochettino continued forward before showing good awareness and composure to pick out Troy Parrott who slid in in the box to convert the chance. Maurizio also scored a well taken goal in that game in what was one of his finest performances of the season for our development side. I can seen the winger becoming a very important player for Wayne Burnett’s under 23 side this season, and if Shilow Tracey goes out on loan again, then Pochettino could well be the first choice right sided winger for our under 23’s, and get a lot of game time in the process. It can’t have been easy for young Maurizio to have seen his father relieved of his duties as manager of Spurs last season however, Maurizio has obviously worked really hard during that period of time since, and the quality of his performances on the pitch has been a testament to that. Maurizio should be very proud of all that he has achieved since joining Spurs back in 2014, and I would like to wish him all the very best of luck for this season.

My piece on Spurs’ young tenacious and attack minded midfielder Elliot Thorpe:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

Elliot Morgan Thorpe is a 19 year old central midfielder/CAM who currently plays for Spurs’ development side. The Hinchingbrooke born player who attended Longsands School, has been at Spurs since a young age following his switch from League Two club Cambridge United, and is now a second year pro with the Lilywhites. Thorpe may not be a name that a lot of Spurs supporters are aware of due to the fact that he hasn’t played a lot of football over the course of the last couple of seasons. However, the youngster who has risen up the various youth ranks at Tottenham, has developed nicely over that time in my opinion, and he also had quite a big growth spurt during that period. The following piece like I do with all of our young academy players, is about giving Spurs fans who may not have seen much of our up and coming players a feel for what type of players they are i.e. attributes and style of play. As an under 15 Thorpe who is eligible to represent Wales at international level, was a part of a very talented Welsh under 16 side that included Ethan Ampadu, which won the 2015 Victory Shield. Capped all the way up to under 19 level for Wales, the attacking midfielder also almost always played up in age group for his country. The teenager from County Cambridgeshire however, didn’t feature for our under 18’s as a schoolboy, and he had to wait until he was almost halfway through his first year of scholarship at the club (he signed terms in the summer of 2017) until he played a competitive game for them. I believe that this was down to injury problems however, he finally did make his debut when he came off the bench late on to feature in our under 18’s pulsating 6-3 league victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in January 2018.

Thorpe would go onto make three more competitive appearances (all from the bench) for our under 18’s during that 2017/18 campaign, showing glimpses of his quality on the ball during the short time that he did play (he was also part of a Spurs under 19 side that travelled to the Netherlands to compete in the annual Terborg Tournament at the end of that season). The following 2018/19 season Elliot saw more game time for our under 18’s and he made his first competitive start for them in a Premier League Cup fixture against Swansea City in November 2018. He would go onto play in nine more competitive games for our under 18’s before the end of that season, as well as coming off the bench to make his debut for our development side in a 3-0 defeat to Oxford United in the Checkatrade Trophy. The young midfielder moved up permanently to our under 23 squad for the start of the following season, and Thorpe enjoyed quite some 2019/20 pre-season. The then first year pro started it off by scoring a late goal against Ebbsfleet United in friendly number one during his short cameo. Thorpe then impressed in another short cameo in the next friendly against Dulwich Hamlet before heading off to Brittany, France with our development side to compete in the prestigious Tournoi Europeen. At this under 21 tournament Thorpe played excellently, playing in all four games and getting valuable minutes under his belt, he showed his class both on and off the ball. He looked incredibly sharp at that tournament and he oozed confidence too, he also did also play in a further pre-season friendly against Enfield Town before the start of the proper season. 

While Thorpe did have to wait until January 2020 before making his first competitive appearance of the season, that coming in a PL2 game against Chelsea. The midfielder played well in that particular game, where although he played out of position as a number four, he did put in a very competent shift in that role. He also played a further game against Derby County in the following fixture, this time as a CAM where he again did well, and also scored his first goal at that level in a 2-2 draw. Thorpe didn’t play anymore games before the 2019/20 season was curtailed however, he is contracted for this seasons 2020/21 campaign. And the attack minded midfielder did play well in our under 23’s first friendly of pre-season against Leyton Orient. Impressing with his sharpness and movement off the ball, Thorpe netted a well taken goal in that 6-2 defeat to the League Two club, before coming off midway through the second half. So what type of player is the 19 year old? Well he is an attack minded one who although he can play a variety of midfield roles, is probably used most as a CAM/number ten and then as a number eight. A very technical player with great technique, the nimble footed Thorpe has silky skills and he is a bit of flair player, a bit like Erik Lamela in that sense if I would compare him to any of Spurs’ current first team players. However, he is positive and purposeful in his play and often looking to drive forward with the ball whenever he get it into his feet when he will embark on a tricky forward run. The midfielder whose footballing inspiration is Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne, also possesses a good first touch and he is also a progressive passer of the ball, as well as being very skilful on the ball and looking to take on and beat players.

Constantly looking to play the ball forward or to run forward with it, during the season just gone I really admired Elliot’s weight of pass and it reminded me in some of ways of how Marcus Edwards and Samuel Shashoua used to just slide the ball through at youth level for Spurs. However, there is also a lot to admire about the Wales youth internationals play off the ball as well, with his aggression and willingness to press players. A terrific presser who presses tirelessly on the pitch, Thorpe plays the game with real bite and he has a real tendency to do the unappreciated sides of the game well i.e. getting stuck in and making forceful and crunching challenges. A relatively quick player who has a great work ethic and who tracks back well after him, in addition the teenager is an energetic player who gets around the pitch really well throughout long periods of matches. Although it’s his movement off the ball and numerous well timed late runs into the danger zone which is perhaps his greatest off the ball attribute. He demonstrated this perfectly in the Leyton Orient game when he made a perfectly timed run into the oppositions penalty area, before smartly finishing off a low ball which was delivered towards him from the right hand side. Thorpe is clearly a player who has a lot of potential and I really enjoy watching him play, and what is great about watching him play, is that he plays the game with a smile on his face. He also seems like a great lad off the pitch and he will always go out of his way to say hello to me at games, which of course is something that I greatly appreciate. I think that this season for Thorpe with the development side presents a really good opportunity for him to impress, and I’ve got a really good feeling that this could be a really good year for the 19 year old. I of course wish Elliot all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 campaign and I look forward to seeing him continue to develop as a player.

Some notes on Spurs youngster Oliver Skipp’s loan move to Norwich City:

Spurs youngster Oliver Skipp (19) joined Sky Bet Championship side Norwich City on loan for the 2020/21 season yesterday. An excellent loan move and opportunity for the teenager from Welwyn Garden City to impress and show his quality, Skipp has been a star of the Tottenham academy set up for some time now, and he has also already made 23 competitive appearances for Spurs’ first team. The England under 21 international who excelled at under 18 and 23 level since bursting onto the scene as a schoolboy during the 2016/17 season, Skipp’s combative and physical style of play has also seen him adapt well to first team football during the times that he has played for Spurs. Having been at Spurs since a very young age the boyhood Tottenham fan has been immersed in the footballing philosophies of the club, and Spurs manager Jose Mourinho even said that he sees him as a future captain of the club. Having outgrown under 23 football despite his young age Skipp didn’t feature at all for the development side last season, and the season before that he only featured on a handful of occasions. That’s why a loan move was probably best in his personal development as a player, just like it is for Troy Parrott who recently moved to Millwall on a season long loan. Oliver Skipp is an incredibly well rounded defensive minded midfielder who has so many top attributes. Reportedly turning down a number of clubs of which included some Premier League ones to join recently relegated Norwich City, Skipp obviously believes that he has a good chance of becoming a regular starter for the ’ Canaries ‘. Much more than just a number four, Skipp can also play the box to midfield role as he has good pace and vision, and particularly at youth level he would go on long driving forward runs.

Tenacious and strong in the challenge as well as being good in the air, Oliver Skipp can also play at centre half as he demonstrated really well at youth level for Spurs, so it will be interesting to see if he fills in at centre back on occasions next season. However, as it stands and for say Daniel Farke goes with a 4-2-3-1 formation then Skipp will be competing with the likes of Tom Trybull, Alexander Tettey, Kenny McLean, Morirtz Leitner and Mario Vrancic for a place in the Norwich midfield. However, this in my opinion a great club for Skipp to develop his game further and also get regular game time. I look forward to following the young Tottenham mans progress and I shall be reporting on his games when I can. 

My piece on promising and versatile young Spurs development side defender Jubril Okedina:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

A consistent, hardworking and reliable player for Tottenham Hotspur’s development side, versatile defender Jubril Adesope Okedina (19) has enjoyed two fine seasons of development at Spurs after enduring an injury hit campaign during his first season with the club full time. The former Beths Grammar School pupil who was born and raised in Woolwich, South London is a centre half (RCB) by trade however, since the 2018/19 campaign he has predominantly played as a right back, a position in which he has settled down nicely in. In the following piece I shall be giving Spurs fans who may not have seen Jubril Okedina play an understanding of what type of player he is, and what his traits and attributes are as a player. Having been at Spurs since a young age and risen up the various youth ranks at the club, Okedina made his competitive debut for Spurs’ under 18 side in a PL South fixture against Aston Villa in the February of 2017. Spurs fielded a very young side for that fixture due to having an important FA Youth semifinal tie against Chelsea soon afterwards. Okedina completed the entirety of the 2-1 defeat to the ‘ Villains ‘ at their Bodymoor Heath training, he played at centre half and did a fine job as he looked comfortable throughout the game. During the summer of 2017 Jubril Okedina signed scholarship forms with Spurs in time for the new 2017/18 campaign. However, for the young defender it was to be a difficult campaign with extremely limited playing time for the Londoner. Okedina made his first competitive appearance for our under 18’s that season when he started our Premier League Cup group stage game against Fulham. He put in a competent performance at RCB in that game as he partnered Brooklyn Lyons-Foster in central defence. Unfortunately in a season when Okedina was out for significant periods due to injury, the then first year scholar didn’t play again for our under 18’s in a competitive fixture until January 2018, when he came on as a late substitute in a pulsating 6-3 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion down on the south coast. 

In his second year of scholarship with the Lilywhites the teenager enjoyed an impressive break through season at under 18 level for the club. The defender who is also eligible to represent Nigeria at international level started the 2018/19 campaign when he came on as a substitute for our under 18’s in a PL South game against Swansea. It took a little bit of time before he established himself in the under 18 side in which he properly got a chance in after putting in a good performance and 3-2 victory over Arsenal in the league, a game in which he scored in. Okedina started every remaining league game that season for our under 18’s after that Arsenal game. Combining his time playing in his natural position of central defence as well as at right back the Spurs man who in addition to his 16 league games that season (he also featured once for them in the FA Youth Cup as well as making a couple of appearances in the Premier League Cup), also made his debut for our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League against PAOK, as well as his under 23 debut in a PL2 game against Brighton and Hove Albion at right back. Okedina excelled for our under 18’s during that season with some excellent defending at both right back and centre half. However, our penultimate league game of the season against Chelsea in Cobham was arguably his best performance, as he put in a faultless defensive display with his reading of the game and anticipation of danger second to none. Promoted to our development side after signing a professional contract during the summer of 2019, Okedina played a number of games for our development side during pre-season, as well as travelling to France to play for Spurs in the Tournoi Europeen. Okedina started the 2019/20 season proper by performing very well at right back in our under 23’s 4-0 opening day PL2 victory over Liverpool. 

Jubril Okedina would play the vast majority of our development sides games up until March and before the season was curtailed due to the pandemic. The defender almost always played at right back, with the one exception being after he came on as a late substitute in a 4-0 PL2 defeat to Blackburn Rovers when he played at RCB. A very consistent performer throughout the campaign as he continued to adapt to his new position following the 2018/19 season, Okedina played 17 times for our development side during the season just gone, scoring one goal. As a right back during the season just gone some of Okedina’s impressive traits were defending tightly and aggressively down the right flank. In addition to that the versatile defender who is good with the ball at his feet and has good close control, is a skilful player who is capable of dribbling his way out of tight situations. He is a cool and composed defender who rarely panics, and reads the game mostly well and effectively. Some of Okedina’s best defensive attributes include being good in the air, possessing good pace, remaining defensively disciplined and also steady, with him usually making well timed challenges and rarely making rash decisions. A well rounded defender, one of the pluses to him playing at right back regularly is the fact that it will help him to further improve his ability to bring the ball out from the back when playing at centre half. Another plus to playing at right back is that it allows him to put his attacking qualities into practice. Last season the hardworking right back demonstrated a real willingness to get up and down that right flank throughout matches. Okedina who is strong at going forward on darting runs, knows when to overlap the Spurs right winger, but also when to stay deep and defend. The technically good young player is agile and that along with his strength allows him to get forward to effect. 

A good passer and crosser of the ball Okedina’s form shortly before the lockdown and subsequent curtailment of the season was very good indeed. The young defender put in two really good performances at right back against both Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively in the PL2. In the game away to Leicester he defended solidly but also did some really good offensive work. Overlapping his man (the Spurs right winger – Maurizio Pochettino) at the right times, he really threatened Leicester down that side of the pitch. Okedina also scored a good goal after powering home an unstoppable low effort on the edge of the Leicester box. In the following and final league game of the season against Wolves in Stevenage, the right back once again put in a really good well rounded performance. Getting up and down that right flank so well, he defended tenaciously as well as being potent at the other end of the pitch. Okedina was also involved in our opening goal of that 3-2 win, when he curled a nice pass all the way down the right flank for winger Maurizio Pochettino to run onto and set up Troy Parrott. When you think about the fact that Jubril has really had to adapt to his new position over the course of the last two seasons, it really is quite impressive as he has looked really at home in that right back role. He is still young and developing his game as well as learning new things all the time, but he is a player I really like and admire for how he consistently performs on the pitch. Hopefully the defender who turns 20 in October can keep pushing on next season for our development side and continue to improve his all round game. I do really hope that he gets his chance to play for the first team in the future at some point, maybe one pre-season. Now that our development side players have returned to training at Hotspur Way I would like to wish Jubril all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season as well as congratulate him for having a fine 2019/20 season.

Some notes on Spurs youngster Troy Parrott’s loan move to Millwall:

18 year old Tottenham Hotspur striker Troy Parrott joined Championship club Millwall yesterday on a season long loan. The Republic of Ireland international who is from Dublin and attended the O’Connell School, made some some big strides during the 2019/20 season despite not playing that many games. Parrott is one of if not the most exciting prospect to come out of Ireland in recent years, and the young man who has represented the Republic of Ireland at every level from under 15 has risen up the ranks quite remarkably since making his under 18 debut for Spurs in a league game against Swansea City in February 2018. The tall and very physical centre forward who scored a great number of goals for our under 18’s during his first year of scholarship at Spurs (he scored 15 goals in 10 games), has in my opinion improved remarkably in his all round game during the space of the last year. The former Belvedere player has always been a prolific scorer of goals, somebody who is a clinical finisher who scores a variety of goals but is also dangerous in the air, Parrott has improved on his pace, skill, balance, physicality, decision making and finishing since joining Spurs full time in the summer of 2018. The Dubliner looked far too good for under 18, 19 and 23 football during the season just gone (he contributed to at least one goal during all of the games that he played), with it all looking far too easy for him whenever he did play. He also stepped up during the pre-season of the 2019/20 campaign when he made four appearances for Spurs’ first team. He would also go onto make four appearances for Spurs’ first team in competitive competitions, including two in the Premier League as well as making his full Republic of Ireland debut in a friendly against New Zealand. Parrott is far more than just a goalscorer, a creative player who is intelligent and fairly unselfish in his play, the teenager can lay the ball off to teammates to great effect as well as being able to see a pass and hold the ball up effectively.

A great worker off the ball, this loan represents a fantastic opportunity to develop further as a player. To experience regular men’s football is in my opinion imperative in helping young players improve their game as well as prepare for the future at Spurs. Following in the footsteps of great Spurs striker Harry Kane who was also loaned out to Millwall during his youth, Parrott who reportedly turned down a number of interested clubs including Scottish giants Celtic to sign for the ‘ Lions ‘, has joined a fantastic club to develop at. Managed by a manager who plays quite an attractive but structured style of football in Gary Rowett, Millwall often play with only one centre forward up top. Currently Parrott will be competing with Matt Smith, Tom Bradshaw and Jón Dadi Bödvarsson for a starting berth in the Millwall team unless they play with two centre forwards which is something they did do on occasions in the Championship last season. Even if Millwall do stick with playing with one man up top, Parrott is in fact a versatile forward. He has played for Ireland as a CAM/second striker at youth level and even as a a left winger. Millwall only narrowly missed out on the Championship play offs last season, but with the loan signing of Parrott now completed I have a feeling that they will now achieve the play offs next season. Parrott is still very young but he is a mature player for his age and that will help him to adapt to life in the Championship. What will also help him to adapt is the fact that Millwall have a number of Irish players on their books, of which includes fellow Dubliner and veteran Shaun Williams and winger Shane Ferguson who hails from Tamnaherin in County Derry. The Millwall fans will in my opinion really admire Parrott’s work ethic and pressing, along with the feisty and aggressive side of his game. Parrott, who played at the Den for Spurs’ under 18’s in an FA Youth Cup third round tie back in 2018 will hopefully get good service when he does play for Millwall. And with one of the Championship’s most creative players on Millwall’s books in Jed Wallace (he registered 12 assists in the Championship last season), who with his vision and passing ability could link up really well with the young Irishman, especially when he whips crosses into the box.

To conclude I have nothing but positive things to say about this loan move for Troy as it will be so beneficial for his development in the game, and it will also help his chances of making the Republic of Ireland squad for their important European Championships qualifier against Slovakia in October. I would like to wish Troy all the very best of luck for his season at Millwall and I look forward to following his progress at the ‘ Lions ‘. Having watched the vast majority of Troy’s games for Spurs since he made his under 18 debut it has been an absolute pleasure to watch his rapid progression in the game. Hopefully he will be the first of a good number of our academy players to be loaned out this summer. 

Jamie Bowden: – The local lad who I’m hoping will follow in the footsteps of Harry Winks:

Jamie Bowden: – The local lad who I’m hoping will follow in the footsteps of Harry Winks:

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For many Spurs fans the name Jamie Bowden wouldn’t have meant an awful lot, up until our pre-season friendly against Girona at the beginning of last month. After the 17 year old who grew up off the park lane, came on in the 83rd minute of the game to make his first team debut for his boyhood club. For those of you who have read my match reports over the past two seasons, you’ll know how highly I rate the talented and terrifically consistent central midfielder. And after a sparkling start to the new 2018/19 season I thought I’d go into greater detail about the young prodigy, and considering it’s an international break at present I thought there was no better time to write my piece on the teenager from Tottenham. Especially, as I promised I would do in my report of our developments side encounter with Crawley last week, in which I awarded Jamie with the man of the match award for the second time in the space of just four days. A deep lying central midfielder with a distinctly creative style to his game, Jamie Bowden is currently in his second year of scholarship at Spurs. Bowden was a key component of the Tottenham under 18 side that reached the premier league cup final in the 2017/18 season. One of the youngest of Tottenham’s first year scholars. Bowden’s impressive performances cemented his place in the side over the course of the campaign, and he would go on to make 25 appearances for Parker’s side that same season. By no means a new name to me, I first saw Jamie play when he was only 14 years of age, in an academy showcase game involving Spurs and Ipswich’s under 15’s, back in March of 2016. Impressing in the centre of the park at Portman road, Bowden stood out with his passing range and composure both on and off the ball. The 14 year old also managed to find the back of the net courtesy of a stunning long range strike. The following season Bowden became an important member of our under 16’s side as well as earning a well deserved call up to the England under 16 team. The schoolboy made four appearances for our under 18’s during the 2016/17 campaign and with his maturity plain to see it was no wonder why.

However, it was in Bowden’s first year of scholarship at the club where he enjoyed arguably his greatest season yet. Making 25 appearances for Scott Parker’s side in all competitions along with two further appearances for the under 19’s in the UEFA youth league, Bowden was one of Parker’s most consistent performers. Bowden was a real force in the centre of the park, breaking up play effectively and keeping things tidy in the middle of the pitch. Young Jamie held his own against much stronger opponents, his reading of the game caught my eye very early on as did the teenagers tenacity and willingness to get to the ball before his man. Not only was the first year scholar an effective ball winner he was also one of our under 18’s most creative and influential players. A deep lying playmaker, Bowden’s exceptional passing range and fine vision for a pass contributed to many of the moves that led to our goals in the under 18 league. Bagging four assists and one goal throughout the domestic season, Bowden picked up many if not dozens of third assists and remained one of if not our best performer throughout the season. If you read back my match reports of last season you’ll know that I was raving about Bowden since the very first month of the season. From his decision making to his defending, and versatility across the park, not once did I see Jamie have a bad game. Filling in at centre half on numerous occasions during the season the teenager also impressed on the continent. And the youngster was awarded with the midfielder of the tournament award, for his string of excellent performances at the under 17 Borgaro Maggioni Righi tournament, in the spring of 2018. And Bowden has started the new 2018/19 season in exactly the same way, after impressing for our development side in pre-season Jamie has really upped his game in the under 18 southern league.

Bowden has put in a series of masterful and domineering performances in the centre of the park, the 17 year old has continued to shine. And after already matching his tally of four assists last season, Bowden is playing with even more confidence and flare to his game. After his superb display for our development side (on his competitive debut) during their Checkatrade trophy encounter with League two club Crawley Town last Tuesday, I thought it was about time I’d written a piece on our of most talented young players. Almost Carrick like in his play, Bowden is a deep lying central midfielder whose job is to act as a shield to the defence. Breaking up play, and keeping things ticking in the middle of the park like a Harry Winks type of player. Energetic and tenacious, Bowden is also exceptionally creative from deep and his excellent passing range has often been the difference for our under 18’s in games. With his deftly accurate passing and ability to read the game so well, Bowden reminds me of a young Harry Winks a player who he cites as one of his biggest influences. Like Winks, Bowden is a tireless central midfielder, a player who always manages to get back into his position at the vital time. Bowden is such an effective central midfielder who has a passing range just as impressive as the considerably older Winks. Young Jamie is a midfield technician who is able to combine his defensive duties with his devastating creativity. Like Michael Carrick, Bowden has that ability to take three or four players out of the game with a single pass, he also has the ability to dictate play from the middle of the park. Much more than a solid midfielder who can break up play and keep things tidy. The thing which impresses me time and time again about Bowden’s play is his awareness. He is constantly dropping into little pockets of space which allows him the time and the room to pick out other players who are higher up the pitch. Like his peer Oliver Skipp, Bowden reads the game with a maturity that is well beyond his years.

He knows when to make that cynical foul that is needed to thwart a dangerous attack, he also knows when he needs to feed the ball into the centre forward and with the deftness and the precision needed in order to paralyse the defence. However, it would be lazy to just draw comparisons with the likes of Carrick and Winks even though he reminds me of both, as for me Bowden is one of the least English, English midfielders at this level. From the way he reads the game, to the composure he shows whilst he is on the ball, Bowden is a typical Italian midfielder. With his almost Pirlo-esque passing and reading of the game, Bowden is able to do the nitty gritty side of the game to perfection whilst remaining focussed and aware of his surroundings. Despite his slight figure Bowden is strong in possession and rarely finds himself dispossessed, like his slightly older peer Oliver Skipp he keeps things simple and never overplays a situation. In many ways Bowden is quite similar to the more experienced Oliver Skipp, both are extremely attentive players who are very good at recycling possession and keeping their position. However, even if Bowden didn’t have that creative element to his game he’d still be an exceptionally talented player, but it’s that edge to his game which has always caught my eye. His all round ability on the football pitch is quite striking as he demonstrated so effectively against Crawley last week. Coming up against the physically imposing midfield duo of Dannie Bulman and Mark Randall, Bowden held his own in the middle of the park alongside his more offensive partner Paris Maghoma. The teenager stayed deep as he snuffed out danger, proving to be a vital cog in Burnett’s side. As the game progressed Bowden became more confident and assertive. And during the second half Bowden showed off his impressive passing range, pulling off some ambitious passes to feed the centre forward (Shayon Harrison) in.

The midfielder also showed this maturity in the Tournoi Europeen in pre-season, when he put in a string of highly effective midfield performances against older and more physical opposition. Bowden is an Irish Londoner who is eligible to represent Ireland at international level and considering how frequently scouts from the FAI turn up to watch games at Hotspur Way, I would be astonished if he wasn’t already on their radar. Having watched him play extensively over the past couple of seasons I can say that Bowden is undoubtedly one of the finest central midfielders of his age group, in this country and I was particularly surprised that the three lions didn’t call him up over the summer for the under 17 European championships. Jamie is a nuisance to come up against, he is tigerish and unrelenting, unafraid to get stuck in though he is astute in his defending and is never rash in the challenge. I’m not going to compare him with Skipp or Maghoma for the simple fact that they are all different types of midfielders, who all have different attributes and styles. However, Bowden is one special talent and an elegant one at that, so often you see technically gifted midfielders who don’t possess that impressive passing range. However, Bowden pings the ball about like a young Pirlo, he is a midfield craftsman as much as he is a defensive midfielder. He reads the game well, he has a decent shot at his disposal but what Bowden has that so many young midfielders don’t have is the ability to pick apart a defence with a single pass. The weight and sheer accuracy of his passing is just sublime. In my opinion Bowden is more than ready to make the permanent step up to the under 23 side, he is far too good for the under 18 league. And whilst he does lack in strength he makes up for it in intelligence and awareness, as he showed against Crawley he is ready to make that step up. If Bowden is promoted to the development side then he will provide Burnett with a real creative edge from the middle, something which they have really lacked so far this season, and I’m hoping that he’ll start against Manchester City on Friday to prove this.

Jamie Bowden has been at Spurs since the age of six, he is a lifelong Tottenham fan who has been immersed in the philosophies and traditions of the club. Without sounding overly positive in this article (which I am by no means being!) I couldn’t sing his praises highly enough, and like Skipp and Winks he is the perfect Pochettino player who ticks so many boxes. Like Skipp, Bowden strikes me as a quiet and unassuming lad, I just hope that he continues to enjoy his football and develop as he does so. He has a very big future with both Spurs and Ireland and he is a player who you will be hearing a lot more about over the course of the season.

Shayon Harrison on Jamie’s performance against Crawley Town last week: “Jamie in the midfield, in his first game, looked so comfortable and looked like he’s played in 100 games already!”

Samuel Shashoua – The young artist:

Samuel Shashoua – The young artist:

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After his superb performance against West Ham’s development side on the opening weekend of the PL2 season. I thought I’d write a piece on one of Wayne Burnett’s and Tottenham’s most promising youngsters, Samuel Shashoua. The teenager from Chelsea in west London who is the older brother of our under 18 midfielder Armando, is one of my favourite ever Spurs youth players. He remains to this day the most technically gifted Spurs academy player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. A tricky right winger who is adept at playing on either flank or through the middle, the 19 year old made the permanent step up to the development side during the 2017/18 campaign. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the former England under 18 international who had been the jewel in the crown of our talented under 18 side the previous season. Shashoua had been scoring and assisting goals for fun during the 2016/17 season, during his second year of scholarship at the club he was unplayable. A pivotal part of the Spurs side which reached the semifinals of the FA youth cup that same season, Samuel was tearing it up in the under 18 league. He was ripping defences apart with his trademark weaving runs, searing pace and excellent balance. By the midpoint of that season under 18 football was essentially a stroll in the park for the 17 year old Spurs starlet. If he wasn’t scoring in one game he was laying off a couple of assists for his teammates in another, he was quite simply unstoppable. I can remember watching one game that season at Hotspur Way, it was a league game against Swansea on an incredibly windy winters afternoon. Shashoua was unplayable during our comprehensive 5-0 victory over the Swans, at times mesmeric. The teenager attacked the Swansea defence with a real ferocity, driving at them with real skill and agility. He was menacing both on and off the ball as he tracked back down the right wing throughout the match and though he was fouled on so many occasions not once did he react.

There were two scouts stood next to me on that day and one of them was waxing lyrical about Samuel the whole game. ” That kids absolutely incredible ” he said as Samuel went onto score two goals against the Welsh side. Hugely admiring of his skill and great balance he was also surprised at how strong Samuel was for such a small and slight player. There was one moment in the game when he cut inside from the right flank before taking on and beating two Swansea defenders with great ease, before smashing the ball against the frame of the goal, it was like watching a young Lionel Messi in full flow. Samuel got into double figures for both goals and assists that season and would end the campaign as our under 18’s second top scorer, whilst going onto make a string of appearances for the under 23’s before the end of that season. His rich vein of form was even rewarded with a place on the bench for our first teams penultimate premier league game of the season away to Leicester City. Although he never came on, it what was an incredible experience for the 17 year old to endure. It was a move from Pochettino which clearly showed how highly him and his coaching staff rated the skilful playmaker. However, the following season wasn’t as fruitful for the teenager who made the permanent step up to the development squad. It was an injury disrupted campaign for Shashoua who featured on 19 occasions for Burnett’s side. Unable to force his way into the side until the end of September, Shashoua picked up an injury just as he was getting into a good patch of form in the autumn time. This was one of a series of frustrating injury lay offs which halted Shashoua’s progress that season.

An artist in the mould of somebody such as Christian Eriksen or David Silva, Shashoua is a typical playmaker. Somebody who can initiate chances out of nothing, he is sharp and unpredictable. With his many twists and turns and well worked manoeuvres, the midfield craftsman enjoyed his best vein of form on the European stage, for our under 19’s last season. Directly involved in five of our goals in the UEFA youth league, Shashoua played a big part in Spurs reaching the quarter finals of the competition. And young Samuel was able to end the campaign on a positive note as he won the player of the tournament in the post season Volksbank cup in Stemwede, Germany. He even got to have his photograph taken with the tournament mascot, a giant mouse! As he received the prestigious award. After a good pre-season away with the development squad I have a really good feeling about this campaign for Samuel. He put in an excellent performance in our opening league game of the season against West Ham where he played as a central attacking midfielder. His sharp twists and turns, and strength whilst traveling with the ball at his feet caused great problems for the West Ham defence. His superb goal inside the opening 15 minutes drew gasps from the crowd, as the young playmaker continued to be Spurs’ most dangerous player throughout that half. With his tricky runs and incisive moves through the middle and his great vision for a pass, he was the shining light in what was a very flat Tottenham performance. However, he was forced off early on in the second half after picking up a knock which resulted in him missing our game against Liverpool later on in the week. With a bit of luck he can avoid those injuries this season and get a good run of games for the development side, something which will undoubtedly boost his confidence and strengthen his chances of being promoted to the first team. As stated earlier on in my article, Samuel is the most technically gifted youth player that I’ve ever seen at Spurs.

Many will be surprised that I haven’t said Marcus Edwards, and whilst both players are immensely talented and in someways very similar types of players, Samuel has always been the one who I’ve felt has the highest ceiling. With excellent close ball control, balance and pace over short distance. Shashoua is an exciting playmaker, I’ve long nicknamed him our very own David Silva due to his creativity. But the former England youth international who has represented the three lions up to under 18 level, is in my eyes the complete cam. He is incredibly skilful and quick, he is strong on the ball and has that rare ability of being able to ride challenges so very well. He has a real footballing brain and is such an unselfish team player who works incredibly hard for the team, tracking back and covering for other players who are out of position. And whilst he is a good finisher who scores an impressive number of goals, Shashoua is a real creative force as he has demonstrated so effectively at u18 and u23 level. He reads the game exceptionally well and has the vision and the intelligence needed to pick out forwards with deceptive Lamela-esque through balls. All of those qualities combined make him an extremely useful player for Pochettino. Apart from the superb Christian Eriksen we don’t really have that type of creative player who can open up a defence with a single pass or a clever jinking run. I’m not suggesting that Samuel is ready to make the step up to the first team at this moment in time however, if somebody like the talented Phil Foden can get significant game time off the bench for Man City, then so should Samuel. For anybody who saw him play during that 2016/17 season you’ll all know what I’m talking about. As with a lot of young players who play in a similar position to Samuel the fear amongst fans is that they won’t have the physicality to deal with men’s football due to being so small and slight.

Yet Shashoua’s small stature is deceptive and believe it or not he is actually one of the strongest players in the development side (on the ball). The 19 year old is a player who possesses great technique and skill. Like Edwards he has that flair about his game, that unpredictable almost Messi like ability to embarrass a defender with a single turn/trick. His high pressing and tracking back after him is a quality that Pochettino will greatly admire, and in so many ways he strikes me as the perfect Pochettino player. He has a long road ahead of him but if he can get a good run of games for Burnett’s side this season and make a positive contribution to the team then it will really help his development, and possibly even result in him making the bench for the first team in a domestic cup game. Last season there were strong rumours around January time linking Samuel with a loan move to Brad Friedel’s New England Revolution. And back in May a rumour from Turkey suggested that Turkish giants Fenerbache were looking to sign the 19 year old. A certain Damien Commoli is the footballing director at the Turkish club. Samuel is also eligible to represent a selection of national teams such as America, Spain and Venezuela. The teenager even has a forum dedicated to him on an American footballing site by fans who would no doubt love to see him in the red, white and blue of the United States National team. An exciting season is in the offing for the older of the two Shashoua brothers and I for one am really looking forward to seeing him get a lot of game time for the development side. His quality is as good as that of any young English player and with a with a bit of luck and a good run of form for the under 23’s this season, it could well be a breakthrough season for the young artist. I wish Samuel all the very best of luck for the remainder of the season. He is such a special talent who we are all so lucky to have at Spurs.