Spurs under 23’s versus West Ham United: (match preview)

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

After drawing their PL2 season opener (1-1) against a tough Brighton side last Saturday, Wayne Burnett’s Spurs under 23 team will be looking to go one better when they take on London rivals West Ham United on Friday at Hotspur Way (kick off is at 12pm). Spurs fielded a strong side against Brighton in game week one, of which included the likes of Brandon Austin, Jack Roles, Jack Clarke, Dennis Cirkin and Harvey White. However, Brighton are a very tough side who are difficult to break down and in the end Spurs drew 1-1, with Kazaiah Sterling scoring our goal, while West Ham who are managed by Dmitri Halajko lost 1-0 away to reigning PL2 Division One champions Chelsea. A well structured side, last seasons PL2 Division Two champions impressed greatly last campaign as they bounced back to the top division in English under 23 football at the first time of asking. Some of you may remember talented Portuguese forward Xande Silva (23) scoring a hat-trick against our under 23’s in our opening game of the 2018/19 season, and the goal scoring forward is a still a part of West Ham’s development side. Another potential danger man for Spurs on Friday is 17 year old centre forward and Irish youth international Ademipo Odubeko who scored a brace against Southend United for West Ham’s development side in the EFL Trophy in their first game of the season. However, the clinical centre forward who has great off the ball movement, didn’t feature in the league game against Chelsea on Monday, so he could possibly be injured. Two other players who are under 23 that didn’t feature in that Chelsea game who could possibly feature in Friday’s London Derby is skilful goal scoring winger Nathan Holland (22), and winger and England youth international Amadou Diallo. So West Ham have a lot of attacking talents at this level that could cause Spurs problems when the two sides meet. However, from a defensive point of view West Ham have talented Portuguese central defender Gonçalo Cardoso (19) whose first team experience with Boavista will definitely be useful for them at this level. 

This will be another very difficult and highly competitive game for Wayne Burnett’s side and with 18 year olds Dennis Cirkin and Harvey White pictured training earlier today (Wednesday) along with Jack Clarke ahead of the first teams UEFA Europa League qualifier against Lokomotiv Plovdiv on Thursday, we could be without them for Friday’s PL2 game. Once again, sadly I will not be able to attend and report on our under 23’s upcoming game against West Ham on Friday due to the current situation however, you can likely follow live updates on the official Spurs Twitter account, and there will also be a report on the official site after the game. In case you missed it the trialist who featured during pre-season (Keenan Ferguson) for our under 23’s, has signed a contract until the end of this season. The right back (20) formerly of Sheffield United played the whole of our under 23’s PL2 season opener against Brighton last Saturday, at right back. I would like to wish Wayne Burnett’s side all the very best of luck for Friday’s London Derby against West Ham United.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Austin, Ferguson, Okedina, Lyons-Foster, Georgiou, Marsh (c), Skinner, Pochettino, Markanday, Tracey, Sterling.

Subs from: De Bie, Muir, Pedder, Bennett, Richards.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: 1-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1. 

My one to watch:  A player with good pace and skill, as well as being a really clinical finisher, Republic of Ireland youth international and striker Ademipo Odubeko (17) could be West Ham’s main danger man on Friday if he does play. The former Manchester United schoolboy scored twice for West Ham’s development side in the EFL Trophy against Southend United this season, and for me I have been impressed with his fine movement off the ball whenever I have seen him play against Spurs. He will definitely be a player to watch out for if he is involved in Friday’s under 23 game.    

Spurs under 23’s versus Brighton & Hove Albion: (match preview)

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

Our under 23 side will play their first competitive game of football since the second of March, when they host Brighton & Hove Albion at Hotspur Way in their opening PL2 game of the season on Saturday afternoon (kick off is at 1pm). Just like our under 18’s who get their league season underway on the same day, Wayne Burnett’s side will be eager to return to playing competitive football however, Spurs have been handed a difficult opening day fixture in Brighton. After a good pre-season which saw them unbeaten in four of their five friendly games, Spurs’ opponents on the other hand have already played their first competitive game of the season. As Simon Rusk’s Brighton side lost 3-2 to League Two side Leyton Orient on Tuesday, after initially coming back after being two goals down. A side that Spurs have never beaten in the PL2 in four attempts (we have drawn one and lost three of those meetings) Brighton did the double over us last season. They beat us 2-1 at Stevenage Borough’s Lamex Stadium, and 4-1 at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton, those two games were difficult ones last season. Quite a physical side who do play good football but can also be direct in their play (Brighton’s physical centre forward Bojan Radulovic caused us numerous problems in our 4-1 defeat last season), Brighton finished in third place in the PL2 Division 1 last season, seven points behind champions Chelsea. Simon Rusk’s side were the joint top scorers in the division last season with 36 league goals from 18 games. Brighton have a number of players who could cause problems for Spurs on Saturday, one of those is Sweden youth international and left winger Peter Gwargis, who scored seven goals and registered four assists from 17 PL2 games last season. Another potent Brighton forward is Northern Irishman Ben Wilson (18) who scored a brace against Leyton Orient earlier in the week. Like Wilson, physical Swiss forward Lorent Tolaj could also cause Spurs problems at the back on Saturday. 

36 year old former Wales international turned Brighton under 23’s player-coach Andrew Crofts would provide Brighton with invaluable experience in the midfield, if he plays. While talented teenager and central midfielder Jensen Weir (recently signed from Wigan Athletic) was a player who had a great game when he played against our under 18’s in the FA Youth Cup last season, so he could also be a player to watch out for. However, Brighton just have a very talented squad of players and for Spurs to get a victory on Saturday they will have to be on top form. Another Brighton player who I didn’t mention but could even feature on Saturday is 21 year old Republic of Ireland international and tireless central midfielder Jayson Molumby. Wayne Burnett’s side on the other hand could be boosted by the presence of experienced young players such as Anthony Georgiou, Kazaiah Sterling and George Marsh for the game against Brighton, with all three players having featured prominently for Spurs’ under 23’s in pre-season. A difficult game it will be for the young Spurs lads on Saturday afternoon in their opening game of the 2020/21 season however, I wish them all the very best of luck for this match. Due to the current situation I will be unable to report on our game against Brighton due to it being behind closed doors however, Spurs will publish a match report on their official site during the weekend.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Okedina, Marsh (c), Lyons-Foster, Georgiou, Bowden, John, Tracey, Roles, Markanday, Sterling.

Subs from: De Bie, Lusala, Skinner, Richards, Etete. 

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: Spurs 1-2.

My score prediction: Spurs 3-2.

My one to watch: Brighton’s physical and clinical centre forward Lorent Tolaj was excellent for their under 18’s last season scoring eight goals from 11 Premier League South appearances. The Switzerland under 19 international starred in our under 18’s 3-2 defeat to Brighton at Hotspur Way last season with his strong running, physicality and his clinical finishing, so he is my player to watch on Saturday afternoon.

My preview of Spurs’ under 23’s 2020/21 season:

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

Our under 23’s get their 2020/21 season off on Saturday afternoon when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion’s under 23 side in their first PL2 league game of the new season (kick off is at 1pm). Head coach Wayne Burnett currently has 27 players who are now a part of his under 23 side (not including players who have stepped up to play for them from the under 18’s during pre-season). However, this will of course likely change as players head out on loan during the transfer window, but for now Burnett’s side includes some experienced younger players of which includes a Cyprus international in 23 year old Anthony Georgiou, who played all five of our under 23’s pre-season friendlies. Other experienced players include Brandon Austin, George Marsh, Kazaiah Sterling and Shilow Tracey, I would personally imagine that all of these players will be loaned out at some point during this transfer window. After Wayne Burnett’s side enjoyed a good pre-season which saw them lose only one of their five pre-season friendlies, and that was against League Two side Leyton Orient, things are looking good for this seasons PL2 campaign. In what sounded like a series of impressive performances against some good senior teams, arguably the stand out win of Spurs’ under 23’s pre-season was their 3-1 triumph over League Two side Colchester United at Hotspur Way. Other good results included a 2-2 draw with Crawley Town, a 3-1 win over Dulwich Hamlet and a 2-2 draw with London rivals Arsenal’s under 23’s last Saturday. It’s always great to go into a new season with good form and that good form is particularly impressive when you realise that when Spurs played their first pre-season friendly last month, that was their proper game of football since March. Last season Spurs finished in tenth place in PL2 Division One and ten points of bottom of relegated bottom side Wolverhampton Wanderers. I thought that we did quite well last season in general, although we did struggle a bit for goals with the now departed Armando Shashoua being our top scorer with five.

However, after starting last season really brightly with two impressive wins over Liverpool and Manchester City, Spurs did have a difficult period where they did struggle a bit to pick up wins, but they did recover in time to finish relatively strongly to avoid the drop to Division Two. Some of last seasons standout players for the young Lilywhites, were in my opinion Armando Shashoua, Harvey White, Jubril Okedina, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Dilan Markanday and Shilow Tracey. The 27 players who are a part of Wayne Burnett’s under 23 side this season are all very talented young footballers who to be at a club like Spurs, have to be special. However, some of the players who could prove to be really important (most of which are players who are yet to make their PL2 debut) include Rafferty Pedder, Elliot Thorpe, Chay Cooper, Max Robson, Dermi Lusala and Aaron Skinner. Only one of those listed players has actually featured for our under 23’s in a competitive match however, I personally believe that they could all have breakthrough seasons for our under 23’s, and make a really positive impact on the team in games and on their results in the process. Attack minded midfielder Rafferty Pedder (18) is a player who can operate either as a CAM or CM, although he did seem to play at right back against Arsenal’s under 23’s on Saturday. A player with really good pace and agility, the midfielder did really well for our under 18’s last season, and he made more competitive appearances for them than any other player. Pedder is a skilful player who loves to drive forward with the ball, make clever passes and also get stuck in to make challenges, he is one player who I believe could make a good impression on Burnett’s side this season. Elliot Thorpe (19) is quite a similar player and he loves to get forward with the ball at his feet, and take players on with skill. Thorpe can play either as a ten, eight or four, and he made a really positive impression on the under 23 side last season despite not getting a lot of minutes.

Skilful, versatile and direct winger Chay Cooper is another player who is yet to make his competitive debut for our under 23’s, but after an excellent season with our under 18’s last season, he could well be ready to make the step up to under 23 football and make a positive impact with his important goals, creativity and high work rate. Meanwhile 17 year old second year scholar Max Robson was outstanding for our under 18 side last season, contributing goals and assists, as well exceptional off the ball pressing. The Haywards Heath born player who can operate as a CM, CAM or as a support striker, would be great to see step up and play for Wayne Burnett’s side on occasions this season as he continues to progress. Right back Dermi Lusala who I recently wrote a long piece on, is another second year scholar who had a really good 2019/20 season for our under 18’s. Quick, skilful and tenacious, the Londoner who can also fill in at centre half and left back if needed is a player who featured for our under 23’s on a couple of occasions during pre-season, and that could be a sign that he will be a part of the squad this season. Finally CDM or CB Aaron Skinner formerly of Bury and Bolton Wanderers and who joined Spurs last November, is a player who also did well at under 18 level last season. Now in his first season as a professional at Spurs, Skinner played in all five of our pre-season friendlies after joining up with the under 23 side for this season. A tough tackling and tireless CDM who reads the game to good effect, Skinner is also good at centre back (predominantly LCB) and being good on the ball and bringing it out from the back well are real strengths of his game. More established under 23 players such as wingers Dilan Markanday and Maurizio Pochettino, central defender Malachi Fagan-Walcott (currently injured) and right back Jubril Okedina are all players who could become key members of the team throughout the season. Having featured prominently for Spurs’ first team during pre-season, young players Harvey White and Dennis Cirkin have both played a considerable amount games for the under 23’s over recent seasons.

However, White and Cirkin could well become a part of the first team squad this season due to the hectic schedule that the first team have. We could also see a Spurs side full of under 23 players for our League Cup third round tie against either Leyton Orient or Plymouth Argyle, due to the fact that our first team also could have a Europa League qualifier just two days later. So that is something to keep an eye on however, going back to our under 23’s season, as it stands they will only be competing in the PL2 this season and they will not be competing in the EFL trophy due to the heavy schedule of games that Spurs have this season. I am not sure whether or not the Premier League Cup or the Premier League International Cup will be taking place this season however, I am sure that the Premier League will inform everyone regarding that soon. Back to the PL2, we obviously start off against Brighton & Hove Albion, a side who we have never beaten at this level in the PL2 before. They are a good technical side with good physicality about them, and we have found it fairly difficult to play against them over the last two seasons, drawing once against them and losing on three occasions. So that will be a tough opening game at Hotspur Way however, some other difficult fixtures include playing Blackburn Rovers who are again a very physical side but who are also very aggressive both on and off the ball. Over the last two meetings between the sides we have conceded seven goals and scored zero, so playing them will be tough as always. Some other standout fixtures include the North London Derby against Arsenal, we play our local rivals on Sunday the 27th of September at Meadow Park, and on Friday the 29th January at Hotspur Way. Other big games include a London Derby against the reigning champions of Division One Chelsea, and fellow London rivals West Ham who we face for the first time in almost two years when we play them in game week two. And the final team who we will face this season that I would like to focus in on briefly is Derby County.

Derby are another physical team who do like to field overage players however, they are good at moving the ball around the park at pace and also particularly good at getting good crosses into the box. So the two games against them will be tough however, to be honest all games in this competitive division are tough ones and teams have to be performing really well to come away from these games with points. I’m of course really looking forward to seeing how Spurs get on in the PL2 this season and I wish all of the lads the very best of luck however, we are living in uncertain times due to the current situation. The club have said that there will be no fans let into either our under 23 or under 18 home games (all of which are being played at Hotspur Way) until it is safe for fans to return. So in regards to me reporting on games it does look like it will be a little while before I return to reporting on our under 18’s and 23’s matches however, I remain optimistic and hopeful that fans will be allowed back into see games in the not so distant future. As for away games at under 23 level, some of these games starting next month will be played at stadiums so that could mean that some fans are allowed into those games. However, if that is not to be the case then hopefully some of our away league games will be streamed by the home club, but as I say I will take every game as it comes at the moment. I am feeling positive about this season for our under 23’s and I really think that they will have good season in the league and yes there are some top teams in our division. However, we have quality players and I just hope that we start the season strongly, see how it goes and build on that. As for my match previews that I do for every under 23 game, I will keep on doing them this season. 

Spurs’ under 23 squad for the 2020/21 season (as it stands): 

Goalkeepers: Alfie Whiteman, Brandon Austin, Jonathan De Bie, Josh Oluwayemi, Kacper Kurylowicz.

Full backs: Dennis Cirkin, Jubril Okedina.

Central defenders: Aaron Skinner, Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster.

Midfielders: George Marsh, Jamie Bowden, Jack Roles, Elliot Thorpe, Rafferty Pedder, Harvey White.

Wingers: Anthony Georgiou, Shilow Tracey, Dilan Markanday, J’Neil Bennett, Jeremie Mukendi, Maurizio Pochettino, Chay Cooper.

Forwards: Kazaiah Sterling, Rodel Richards, Kion Etete, Enock Asante. 

Under 23 players out on loan: TJ Eyoma (on a season long loan with Lincoln City), Troy Parrott (on a season long loan with Millwall), Oliver Skipp (Technically part of the Spurs first team. He is on a season long loan with Norwich City).

Our under 23’s PL2 league fixtures for the 2020/21 season can be viewed on the official Tottenham Hotspur website.

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.

Spurs under 23’s 2- 6 Leyton Orient: (match report)

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur)

Our development sides first outing and their first proper game of football in over five months took place on Wednesday evening. Wayne Burnett’s side took on League Two club Leyton Orient at their Breyer Group Stadium in the JE3 cup, in memory of former Spurs player and Leyton Orient manager Justin Edinburgh. Spurs’ young side lost the game 6-2 as Leyton Orient won the cup however, I thought that the game was closer than the scoreline suggests. Spurs lined up with quite a few experienced players as they lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Belgian youth international Jonathan De Bie started in goal for Spurs while a back four consisting of Trialist A, Jubril Okedina, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster and Dilan Markanday sat in front of him. Captain George Marsh and Elliot Thorpe partnered up in central midfield, as Shilow Tracey and Anthony Georgiou started out on the flanks, either side of CAM Jack Roles, as Kazaiah Sterling started up top against his former club. Spurs got the game underway in the capital (the stream provided by Leyton Orient started a couple of minutes late) however, it was the home team who had all of the early chances. The alert Elliot Thorpe blocked behind Jamie Turley’s early header after he had connected with Jordan Maguire-Drew’s corner kick, before the same players following corner was met by tall centre half Dan Happe. Happe then headed the ball to former Spurs player Lee Angol whose header was saved relatively comfortably by Spurs goalkeeper Jonathan De Bie.

Centre back Jubril Okedina’s long cross field pass to Anthony Georgiou on the left flank was well kept in by the Cyprus international. Georgiou then continued forwards before whipping the ball powerfully across the face of Leyton Orient’s goal before picking up the ball again on the left hand side, before once again whipping the ball across the face of the goal. There was a good early tempo to the game, after winning the ball off of Jack Roles, Lee Angol continued forwards before sliding the ball into Jordan Maguire-Drew down the right hand side of the Spurs box, but Roles recovered well to make the challenge and put the ball behind behind. Jobi McAnuff’s resulting corner kick was met by Jamie Turley’s whose header was touched behind by De Bie for another corner. After eventually latching onto the following corner kick Ruel Sotiriou fired the ball over De Bie’s crossbar on the turn. A couple of minutes later Jordan Maguire-Drew turned makeshift Spurs left back Dilan Markanday, before whipping a ball into the Spurs box which was put behind by Thorpe. After conceding a free kick around the half way line Leyton Orient’s Jobi McAnuff took it quickly, launching the ball forward for James Dayton to latch onto (he was possibly offside), Dayton entered the Spurs box as De Bie came rushing out. The Leyton Orient player then took the ball around De Bie before tucking it into the back of the net, despite Jubril Okedina’s best efforts as he came sliding in, 0-1.

Shortly after Spurs got the game back underway Lee Angol was played through by Jobi McAnuff down the right side of the Spurs box, before Okedina came across to make an important challenge. A couple of moments later Georgiou conceded a free kick right on the edge of the Spurs box, Jordan Maguire Drew’s resulting effort was then punched away by De Bie, as Leyton Orient were in control of the game. Jamie Turley’s long ball up field set the potent Lee Angol up field and the forward took the ball into the Spurs box, before curling it into the bottom left hand corner of De Bie’s goal, 0-2. Leyton Orient then made it 3-0 after their goalkeeper Sam Sargeant’s long kick up field set Jordan Maguire-Drew through down the right side of the Spurs box after he had gotten past Okedina, Maguire-Drew delightfully dinked the ball over De Bie and into the back of the Spurs net, 0-3. Spurs responded as Georgiou came forward before passing the ball to Sterling who entered the Leyton Orient box, he took a wrong touch with fortunately came back to him off of Jamie Turley. Sterling then tried a low side footed shot which was saved by Sam Sargeant, before Spurs came forward again as Georgiou and Markanday combined out on the left flank. The latter picked the ball up before cutting inside onto his right foot and entering the Leyton Orient box, and then trying a low effort which was deflected off of Jamie Turley before going into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, 1-3. After receiving Markanday’s pass inside the Leyton Orient box, Kazaiah Sterling’s resulting effort was blocked by Dan Happe.

Spurs striker Kazaiah Sterling was getting more involved in the game and soon afterwards he curled an effort from distance over Sargeant’s goal. Shortly afterwards Markanday passed the ball out to Trialist A out on the right flank and he then swept in a low ball into the box which was met first time by Elliot Thorpe, who had made a good run before tucking the ball powerfully into the back of the Leyton Orient goal, 2-3. After controlling Markanday’s pass down the left flank Georgiou turned his man before sending in a perfect cross for Elliot Thorpe to attack. Thorpe’s resulting powerful header darted narrowly past Sam Sargeant’s goal, as Spurs started to become the dominant force in the game as the first half came to a close. Leyton Orient restarted the game as Spurs made a number of changes at the break, as Shilow Tracey, Jack Roles, Anthony Georgiou, Kazaiah Sterling and Jonathan De Bie all came off. Josh Oluwayemi, Maurizio Pochettino, Kion Etete, Rodel Richards and J’Neil Bennett all came onto replace them. Bennett had an early effort blocked by McAnuff before moments later receiving Lyons-Foster’s long ball out on the left flank. He came inside onto his right foot before entering the Leyton Orient box and forcing a low save out of Sam Sargeant. After Lyons-Foster had fouled Lee Angol on the edge of the Spurs box Jobi McAnuff’s resulting effort was blocked behind by the Spurs wall. Jordan Maguire-Drew’s resulting corner kick was palmed away by Oluwayemi, before at the other end Markanday passed the ball to Pochettino out on the right flank. The 19 year old pumped in a good cross to pick out Etete inside the Leyton Orient box however, the strikers powerful firs time shot went just wide of Sargeant’s goal.

After Spurs gave the ball away at the back Lee Angol latched onto it and darted into the Spurs box, down the left hand side. Angol then powered the ball past the helpless Oluwayemi to extend Leyton Orient’s lead, 2-4. Jordan Maguire-Drew then bended an effort narrowly over the Spurs goalkeepers crossbar before manager Ross Embleton changed his entire side. Irishman Shadrach Ogie saw his effort from the edge of the Spurs box take a big deflection off of his own player Sam Ling however, despite the best efforts of Oluwayemi he couldn’t prevent the ball from going behind. Elliot Thorpe was struggling a little bit after picking up a knock and he was then replaced by Aaron Skinner in central midfield on 67 minutes. Leyton Orient goalkeeper Lawrence  Vigouroux was caught out inside in his own box with the ball at his feet by Spurs substitute Kion Etete. The tall centre forward then turned around before only shooting the ball over the open goal, in what was a big moment in the game. Maurizio Pochettino then went on a good direct run down the right flank before sending in a low cross into the Leyton Orient box to pick out Etete. The former Notts County man spun around Josh Coulson sharply before striking the bottom of the left hand post, as the ball fortunately rolled across the line and into the arms of Lawrence Vigouroux. At the other end of the pitch George Marsh blocked a Leyton Orient trialist’s effort, before Josh Coulson managed to meet Josh Wright’s corner kick but his powerful header was excellently pushed away by Oluwayemi who got low down sharply. George Marsh then cleared away Josh Wright’s cross before Oluwayemi tipped behind another cross from the same player. 17 year old Marqes Muir then came onto replace Jubril Okedina at the back, while Trialist B replaced Brooklyn Lyons-Foster in midfield. 

After Conor Wilkinson passed the ball to Josh Wright down the right he continued forwards before firing the ball over Oluwayemi’s crossbar. Trialist B then had a cross blocked by a Leyton Orient player before a Leyton Orient trialist had an effort on goal blocked by his teammate Conor Wilkinson. Young Marqes Muir then conceded a free kick on the edge of the Spurs penalty area which Conor Wilkinson converted. The centre forwards powered effort came off the underside of Oluwayemi’s crossbar before bouncing over the line, although a Leyton Orient trialist nodded it home to make sure, 2-5. Wilkinson managed to pick out Craig Clay from a cross however, his headed effort came off a teammate before Skinner cleared the ball away from danger. The heavily involved Conor Wilkinson then hit the ball up to Danny Johnson who traveled down the right side of the Spurs box, before hitting the ball into the bottom left hand corner of Oluwayemi’s goal, 2-6. That was to be the final piece of action of the game in what was a valuable first test of pre-season for Wayne Burnett’s lads.

Player reviews:

  • Jonathan De Bie: The 20 year old shot stopper made a total of three saves on the day during his 45 minutes on the pitch. De Bie looked relatively comfortable throughout the game despite conceding three goals.
  • Trialist A: It was an impressive and confident performance from Trialist A who showed good pace, desire and decision making in defence, both as an RB which he started as, and then later at LCB. He was commanding and authoritative in defence and he showed a good understanding of the game, he also picked out Elliot Thorpe for the 19 year olds goal. 
  • Jubril Okedina: Like Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Jubril Okedina had some tough moments in the game due to the physicality and the experience of the Leyton Orient players. However, considering it was the first game that he had played in over five months, as well as playing in a position that he hardly played in at all last season, I thought that he did a fine job.
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: Showing good technique and good composure first in central defence as an LCB, and then later in central midfield, Lyons-Foster had a number of good moments in the game. I thought that the Londoner defended well at the back, and he also made some good passes out from the back during the game before then going into midfield in the second half.
  • Dilan Markanday: Playing at left back this was the first time that Markanday had played in that position since he did so for our under 18’s during the 2018/19 season. The 19 year old did of course have some difficult moments in the game as you would expect for somebody so young and inexperienced in that position however, he was good on the ball and traveled forward with it well, going on some good and tricky forward runs during his 90 minutes on the pitch. The Barnet born winger also took his first half goal well.
  • George Marsh: The Spurs captain got around the pitch well and he played well both in central midfield and at right back, against the club that he had played on loan with last season.
  • Elliot Thorpe: My man of the match, see below.
  • Shilow Tracey: The winger went on some surging good and well timed runs down the right flank and he worked hard throughout his time on the pitch during the first half of the game.
  • Jack Roles: It may have been a reasonably quiet game by the Cyprus under 21 internationals good standards however, the 21 year old worked hard and he played with a good intensity about him. Roles also made a good and important first half recovery after giving the ball away.
  • Anthony Georgiou: The Cyprus international was inventive and lively on the ball when he got it out on the left flank. Georgiou went on some good forward runs down the left flank as he showed his good pace, the Lewisham born player also delivered some fine crosses into the Leyton Orient box, including an excellent one from which Elliot Thorpe so nearly scored from. In addition Georgiou also showed good defensive discipline to help out the less experienced Dilan Markanday at left back, during the first half.
  • Kazaiah Sterling: The centre forward who was playing his first game since September last year after a long injury lay off, grew into the game during the first half. Sterling managed to have a couple of shots on goal and his work rate and movement was good. 
  • Josh Oluwayemi: The second year professional only made one save but it was a very good reaction one low down. Oluwayemi also dealt well with crosses when he was faced with them.
  • Maurizio Pochettino: The second half substitute gave a good account of himself and he was nice and direct down the right flank. Pochettino (19) constantly ran at his man when he had the ball at his feet, and that positive style of play was nice to see.
  • Kion Etete: The 18 year old pressed the Leyton Orient defenders well, and one such fine piece of pressing almost led to him scoring with the scores at 4-2, that was a big moment in the game. Etete also had a couple of other chances to score after getting himself into some good positions.
  • Rodel Richards: The 19 year old supported Kion Etete up front during his time on the pitch during the second half.
  • J’Neil Bennett: The winger came onto play out on the left flank and he showed some good pace and skill down that side of the pitch. Bennett showed that he was a threat going forward on occasions during the game.
  • Aaron Skinner: The versatile Salford born defender slotted into central midfield for the last 23 minutes of the game.
  • Marqes Muir: The RCB came onto play at centre half for the late stages of the game.
  • Trialist B: Trialist B came onto play in central midfield during the latter stages of the game.

My man of the match: 19 year old attack minded midfielder Elliot Thorpe had a fine game in central midfield for Wayne Burnett’s side on Wednesday evening. Looking sharp throughout his time on the pitch the Wales youth internationals movement, alertness and positioning was good throughout in my opinion. Thorpe also showed good defensive discipline, as well as showing good skill on the ball when going forwards. He played some good forward passes and he made two good runs into the danger zone, one of which saw him do well to convert Trialist A’s pass. This was another good performance from Elliot Thorpe who went off on 67 minutes after picking up a knock. Hopefully he will be back for our under 23’s next friendly, whenever that may be.

Leyton Orient: Sargeant (Vigouroux 60), Ling (Judd 60), Brophy (Widdowson 60), McAnuff (c) (Cisse 60), Turley (Coulson 60), Happe (Ogie 60), Dayton (Wilkinson 60), Shabani (Clay 60), Angol (Johnson 60), Maguire-Drew (Wright 60), Sotiriou (Trialist 60).

Spurs: De Bie (Oluwayemi 46), Trialist, Markanday, Marsh (c), Okedina (Muir 76), Lyons-Foster (Trialist 76), Tracey (Pochettino 46), Thorpe (Skinner 67), Sterling (Etete 46), Roles (Richards 46), Georgiou (Bennett 46).

Goals: Leyton Orient – Dayton 22, Angol 27, 59, Maguire-Drew 31, Trialist 84, Johnson 89; Spurs – Markanday 37, Thorpe 42.

Venue: Breyer Group Stadium, Brisbane Road.

Spurs under 23’s versus Leyton Orient: (match preview)

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

Our development side last played a proper game of football at a stadium back in March however, more than five months later they will return to playing when they take on Leyton Orient in a friendly match on Wednesday evening (kick off is at 7 pm). Scheduled to be played at Leyton Orient’s Breyer Group Stadium, the game will be known as the JE3 Cup in memory of former Spurs player and Leyton Orient manager Justin Edinburgh who sadly passed away last year. This JE3 cup match against a senior League Two side will provided Wayne Burnett’s side with a much needed competitive game of football having only returned to group training fairly recently. Burnett’s side could be a fairly experienced for this game, with Jack Roles, Anthony Georgiou, Shilow Tracey, George Marsh and Kazaiah Sterling all pictured training with the development side last week after being out on loan last season. Leyton Orient have warmed up for Wednesday’s game by defeating Reading’s under 23 side 2-0 on Saturday. Some of the ’ O’s ’ players to look out for include experienced 38 year old left winger Jobi McAnuff, centre forwards Lee Angol (ex Spurs) and Ruel Sotiriou, central midfielder Josh Wright and highly rated centre back Dan Happe. This will be a tough first test of pre-season for Burnett’s side however, the young Spurs lads will be excited to return to the pitch after so long out. This should be a competitive game despite it being a friendly as this could be an experienced side that Wayne Burnett fields. Also all of our development side players will be hoping to impress and catch the eye of the Tottenham coaches, with Spurs’ first team playing Ipswich Town in a friendly at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this Saturday. Obviously the game is being played behind closed doors with no media being let in however, I will be doing a report of the game as Leyton Orient will be streaming the game on their official You Tube channel which is great!

In other news our under 18’s were beaten 4-2 by Oxford United in a friendly at Hotspur Way on Tuesday. Max Robson and Romaine Mundle got our goals.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) De Bie, Marsh (c), Lyons-Foster, Skinner, Okedina, Bowden, Thorpe, Tracey, Roles, Markanday, Sterling.

Subs from: Oluwayemi, Muir, Cesay, Devine, Bennett, Pochettino, Richards, Etete.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: N/A.

My score prediction: 2-2

My one to watch: Experienced left winger/midfielder Jobi McAnuff could be a danger man for Spurs down that left hand side. Especially if McAnuff is looking to whip crosses into the Tottenham penalty area. His experience could be key to winning Leyton Orient the game.