Spurs under 23’s 2-4 Manchester United: (match report)

Our under 23 side suffered their first Premier League 2 league defeat of the season against Derby County just before the international break, and unfortunately and rather unluckily for Wayne Burnett’s side they followed this up by losing by four goals to two against Manchester United on Sunday, at Leigh Sports Village. In what was a pulsating quite end to end game which was competitive and played at a good intensity, Spurs fought back from a goal down after Shola Shoretire gave Manchester United an early lead. However, Spurs got an equaliser through Kion Etete (his first goal of the season) less than ten minutes later after a good spell in the game for the visitors. Influential Spanish midfielder Arnau Puigmal did regain the home team’s lead shortly after the half hour mark, before he got his second and Man United’s third of the game in first half additional time. Spurs started the second half strongly however, and their hard work paid off when Harvey White pulled a goal back. An interesting 40 minutes or so followed as both teams went in search of that important next goal, but it was Manchester United who scored it in second half stoppage time through the potent Anthony Elanga. This was far from a bad performance from Spurs, and they played with a good intensity, pressed well and created some good chances too. Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Alfie Whiteman starting in goal. A back four consisting of Marcel Lavinier, captain Jubril Okedina, Tobi Omole and Dennis Cirkin sat in front of him. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, George Marsh and Harvey White formed a three in midfield, while Dilan Markanday and Jack Clarke started out on the flanks, either side of lone centre forward Kion Etete.

Spurs got the game underway and a good early cross forced Manchester United defender William Fish in to making an early clearance from inside his box. Marcel Lavinier was shown an early yellow card for a sliding challenge on Hannibal Mejbri, as both sides enjoyed a fairly even amount of the ball during the opening stages of the game. However, the home side took the lead on 13 minutes through Shola Shoretire, after Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri picked up the ball on the right flank before advancing past Dennis Cirkin and delivering a nice cross towards Shoretire, whose powerful header nestled inside the top right hand corner of Alfie Whiteman’s goal to finish off a good Manchester United move, 0-1. Spurs tried to respond through Cirkin who went on a good run towards the Man United box before forcing a good low save from Paul Woolston, who pushed the ball behind for a corner kick. Soon afterwards the lively Jack Clarke won a free kick in a good position out on the left, he stood up to to take it and delivered a good ball into the oppositions danger zone, but it was cleared away by Mejbri. Spurs did manage to draw level on 22 minutes after a good move which saw Markanday pass the ball to Lyons-Foster down the right side of midfield, ended in the 19 year old whipping in a delightful cross for Etete, who met the ball inside the Man United box. The striker lunged towards the ball before volleying it past Woolston and into the bottom right side of his goal, 1-1.

Spurs looked to go ahead shortly after the restart when Etete passed the ball to White who slipped it into Clarke down the left, but his low cross into the box was cleared away by Teden Mengi before Etete could get to it. Woolston was then put under pressure by Etete, and the goalkeepers pass came to Lyons-Foster on the edge of the box, but he ended up hitting the ball well over the bar. Whiteman gathered comfortably a low cross from Anthony Elanga before Manchester United regained the lead. Shoretire picked the ball up on the left before cutting inside and entering the Spurs box and then passing it to Puigmal who sorted his feet out quickly before firing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the outstretched Whiteman’s goal, 1-2. Mengi then blocked Markanday’s effort from long range before Jack Clarke was shown a yellow card for a foul on Alvaro Fernandez. An excellent corner kick from White was missed by Woolston however, Clarke didn’t have enough space to convert at the back post, as the ball went behind for a goal kick. Lyons-Foster crucially cleared Hannibal Mejbri’s cross before Northern Ireland international Ethan Galbraith whipped an effort narrowly wide of Whiteman’s goal from long range. A cross from the right flank from Lavinier eventually came to Etete inside the Manchester United box, but he shot wide on the turn. A challenge from Mejbri on the lively Markanday unfortunately meant that the 19 year old had to come off before half-time, and he was replaced by J’Neil Bennett. 

Man United extended their lead in first half additional time after Lukasz Bejger’s through ball wasn’t dealt with by the Tottenham defence, and it allowed Puigmal to run through into the box and power the ball past Whiteman (he got a hand on the ball and looked disappointed to have conceded) and into the back of the net in what was the final piece of action from the first half, 1-3. Man United got the second half underway and early on in the half Whiteman had to be alert to gather Anthony Elanga’s cross from the left. However, Spurs pulled a goal back on 52 minutes through midfielder Harvey White. George Marsh’s persistent pressing paid off after he won the ball off of Mejbri on the edge of the Man United penalty area, he then passed the ball to Clarke down the left side of the box. The Yorkshireman then cleverly squared it to White who was waiting in the middle of the box, and he calmly side footed the ball past Woolston, 2-3. William Fish headed narrowly over from a Hannibal Mejbri corner kick as the game continued to be played at a good tempo. Brooklyn Lyons-Foster was replaced by Elliot Thorpe in central midfield, and the newly introduced midfielder was shown a rather harsh yellow card for a foul on Mejbri. Omole did well to block behind Anthony Elanga’s shot on goal, before Jamie Bowden made his return from injury to replace George Marsh. 

After Clarke played the ball down to Lavinier down the right flank, the former Chelsea man gave it back to Clarke who squared it for Lavinier in the Man United box, but the right backs low effort was saved well by Woolston before a foul was given against Spurs for a Clarke foul on the Man United goalkeeper. Having already switched flanks with Clarke, Bennett came inside from the left and had an effort from range saved by Woolston as Spurs took control of the game. The impressive Teden Mengi blocked an effort from Harvey White on the edge of the Man United box before Cirkin was shown a yellow card, and then Lavinier received Bowden’ down the right, before threading the ball through to Clarke down the right side of the Man United box. However, Clarke’s powerful low effort was saved by Woolston, before Okedina did well to block substitute Mark Helm’s effort, with Ethan Galbraith hitting the ball over on the follow up. After Hannibal Mejbri passed the ball to Fish inside the Spurs box, Burnett’s side looked to be in trouble but for an excellent block from Okedina on Fish’s shot. Omole then did well to block Anthony Elanga’s shot inside the Spurs box before Fernandez hit the ball over the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Omole’s long pass forward almost set Etete through on goal at the other end, but William Fish did well to win the ball. Then a good long pass from the substitute Bowden set Etete through on goal but his heavy first touch saw the ball roll through for Woolston to gather inside his box.

Manchester United secured the win in second half additional time after Anthony Elanga received the ball out on the left flank. He managed to get away from Lavinier before entering the Spurs box and tucking the ball past Alfie Whiteman and into the back of the net to bring an end to a pulsating game of football which could have went either way, 2-3.

Player reviews:

  • Alfie Whiteman: The 22 year old didn’t actually make a save against Manchester United, as all four of the home team’s efforts on target ended in goals. Whiteman’s distribution was good and direct.
  • Marcel Lavinier: The former Chelsea right back really grew into the game, and he had a strong second performance, particularly going forward. Lavinier went on some good runs, and he also linked up well with Jack Clarke after the winger had switched flanks.
  • Jubril Okedina: The Spurs captain showed good leadership and took defensive responsibility in certain situations when the home team came close to scoring. Okedina made a crucial defensive intervention during the first half and an excellent last ditch block in the second half.
  • Tobi Omole: Showing good composure in central defence, the versatile former Arsenal player did well on his first competitive start for the club. He made some good and important blocks during the second half.
  • Dennis Cirkin: Having to defend against Manchester United’s Uruguayan winger Facundo Pellistri was always going to be a difficult task for the left back. The skilful winger did have some joy down our left side, but Cirkin did respond well and he went on some good tricky runs of his own at the opposite end of the pitch.
  • George Marsh: Playing as the deepest of a midfield three, defensive midfielder George Marsh did well in the game, and he played a good part in us scoring our second goal of the match, thanks to some good pressing from the tireless midfielder.
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster: My man of the match, see below.
  • Harvey White: Playing as the most advanced of a midfield three, our second goalscorer of the game (he took his goal well from inside the Man United box) Harvey White had another fine game for our under 23 side, as he took his goal involvement statistics for the team this season to four (two goals and two assists). Getting himself into some good forward positions, White was tidy with the ball at his feet and he also pressed really well. It was really interesting to see him play in that role.
  • Dilan Markanday: The lively winger played out on the right flank, and the 19 year old did cause problems for Man United left back left back Alvaro Fernandez with his fine agility. Unfortunately Markanday had to go off through injury just before the end of the first half, but hopefully he will be back playing again very soon.
  • Kion Etete: I was impressed with how Etete performed up front on his own today. The former Notts County man held the ball up and protected it really well, and he showed good awareness and ability to link the play as well. Etete took his goal well on the volley and on another day the very hard working centre forward could have had more goals, due to his good movement off the ball.
  • Jack Clarke: The former Leeds United winger showed good strength on the ball as he attempted to accelerate past players down the left flank (he later switched onto the right flank), and Clarke was involved in some good passages of play for Spurs, setting up White’s goal with a clever pass with the outside of his foot, before also coming going to getting a goal of his own later on in the game.
  • J’Neil Bennett: Coming onto the pitch just before half-time, winger J’Neil Bennett had one good effort saved by the Manchester United goalkeeper after cutting inside from the left, and he also went on some good forward runs.
  • Elliot Thorpe: The second half introduction of the central midfielder saw the 20 year old always looking to play forward and create. Unlucky with one such forward pass that came close to creating a clear cut chance for Spurs, Thorpe’s work rate was consistently very good during his time on the pitch. 
  • Jamie Bowden: The second half substitute went about his job quietly but effectively during his 20 plus minutes on the pitch following his return from injury. Bowden was nice and tidy in his play and he made some good long forward passes. It was great to see him back playing again.

My man of the match: There were some good and strong performances out on the pitch against Manchester United on Sunday evening but a very assured performance from Brooklyn Lyons-Foster as a number eight during his 63 minutes on the pitch, made him for me our best player on the day. Putting in a very similar performance to when he played for our under 18’s in a game against Fulham back in the 2018/19 season (also in midfield), the versatile midfielder had that same calming effect on the game today. Playing with a good intensity, Lyons-Foster read the game and pressed players to really good effect, and he always tried to be first to the ball every time, and as a result of this he made some good interceptions. Despite playing out of position he did well, and the midfielder whipped in a delightful cross to pick out Kion Etete for his goal to get his first assist of the season.

Spurs u23’s stats:

Goals: Harvey White – 2

Rodel Richards – 2

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

George Marsh – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Alfie Devine – 1

Kion Etete – 1

Assists: Harvey White – 2

Jack Roles – 1

Dilan Markanday – 1

Dennis Cirkin – 1

Kazaiah Sterling – 1

J’Neil Bennett – 1

Brooklyn Lyons-Foster – 1

Jack Clarke – 1

Clean sheets: Brandon Austin – 2

Alfie Whiteman – 1

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

I remember very well the last time that our under 23’s played Manchester United in the Premier League 2, it was back in January 2018 when Wayne Burnett’s side were bottom of the league, and needed a win with not that many games remaining that season. Spurs came from a goal behind to beat Manchester United three – one that night at Old Trafford, now almost three years later the newly promoted club will be looking to record their third league win in a row, having impressively beaten Brighton and Everton in their last two matches. Sunday’s game which takes place at Leigh Sports Village (the game starts at 5pm and is being shown live on MUTV) will be another tough game for Spurs who suffered their first defeat of the season in the last game week, against Derby County. Manchester United have a fantastic academy and they have a very good under 23 squad, with players such as Uruguayan winger and recent signing Facundo Pellistri, striker Joe Hugill, midfielder Arnau Puigmal (he has three league goals to his name this season), and right back Ethan Laird, Spurs will have to be at a very good level to overcome this Manchester United team, but then again you could say this for every game in this highly competitive division. Alfie Devine made his competitive debut (he scored our only goal of the game) for our under 23’s in that that one – two loss to Derby County, but he played for our under 18’s on Saturday, so I would imagine that it is unlikely that he will feature again. I’m really looking forward to watching our under 23’s on late Sunday afternoon, and I will of course be writing an in-depth report of the game. I would also like to wish the lads all the very best of luck for the match.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Lavinier, Okedina (c), Lyons-Foster, Cirkin, White, Thorpe, Markanday, Richards, Georgiou, Etete.

Subs from: Austin, Omole, Mukendi, Pochettino, Bennett.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: Spurs 3-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Former Sunderland schoolboy Joe Hugill (17 year old striker), who already has three Premier League 2 goals to his name this season despite only being a first year scholar.

Spurs under 23’s versus Derby County: (match preview)

Our under 23’s will play their first Premier League 2 game in over two weeks on Friday (the game starts at 12pm) when Wayne Burnett’s unbeaten side face Derby County at Hotspur Way. Always a tough team to play, Derby County have started this season well, and they currently sit at the top of the Premier League 2 division One table (they have played two games more than us). A good and well organised side who do play good attacking football, Derby have scored an impressive total of 16 goals from their opening seven league games of this season. I actually watched Derby’s under 23’s play Southampton in a league game recently, and they once again showed good organisation within the team, as well as moving the ball around well, and using the flanks to good effect. Two older players, Jordan Ibe (24) and Krystian Bielik (22) played in that game and the latter actually played Derby’s last under 23 game as well, so there could be a chance that he may again play against Spurs on Friday, as he continues his return from injury. While both of those players impressed in that game in what was a fine performance from the team, I was also very impressed with some of Derby’s younger players. 19 year old former Republic of Ireland under 18 international Louie Watson had a really fine and strong performance, operating in the hole as a number ten. The former West Ham academy player took up some really intelligent forward positions and he was always looking to pass the ball forward. The two Derby central defenders, Callum Minkley (20) and Harrison Solomon (18) had really strong games, and they were commanding in their defending.

19 year old right back Kornell MacDonald got forward well on a number of occasions and he scored a goal against Southampton in that game. And finally winger Morgan Whittaker (19) who had strong games against Spurs in both Premier League 2 encounters last season, is a very quick player who has an eye for goal, while 19 year old Derby centre forward Jack Stretton has seven goals from seven league games for Derby’s under 23’s so far this season. There is no doubting that this will be another tough game and one that will test them at both ends of the pitch, yet with quite a bit of experience in the Spurs side, with players such as Anthony Georgiou and George Marsh (the 21 year old returns from a three game suspension), I think that we’ve got a good chance of returning to winning ways. Spurs drew their last game at this level 0-0 away to Everton in what sounded like a very competitive game of under 23’s football. Spurs should be providing half-time and full-time score updates on their official Twitter account, while I will also be tweeting score updates as they come through online, as games continue to be played behind closed doors. I would like to wish the team all the very best of luck for the game.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Ferguson, Okedina (c), Lyons-Foster, Lavinier, Marsh, Thorpe, Markanday, Richards, Georgiou, Etete.

Subs from: De Bie, Omole, Bennett, Pochettino, Mukendi.

Injured/unavailable: N/A.

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: 2-2.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Louie Watson (19) operates primarily as a CAM and in the recent 3-2 Derby win over Southampton, he impressed me a lot. Scoring one goal from three league games this season, Watson dropped into some really good pockets of space in that Southampton game and he was always playing the game in front of him, and looking to play the ball forward at all times. He seems like a very technically gifted young  player who could cause Spurs problems tomorrow afternoon.

Spurs under 23’s versus Everton: (match preview)

After a two week international break our inform under 23’s return to Premier League 2 action on Monday evening (kick off is at 7pm), when Wayne Burnett’s side take on Everton at the Merseyrail Community Stadium in Southport. At this venue last season Spurs put in one of their best performances of the campaign, when they defeated David Unsworth’s Everton side 3-1, in a game in which we dominated for large periods. Everton finished in eighth position in the league last season after picking up 22 points from 18 matches, and this season they have so far picked up six points from four league games. Historically Everton away at this level has been a very difficult fixture for our development side, and in recent years we have struggled to get results against them. However, so far this campaign our under 23’s have won three and drawn one of their opening four Premier League 2 games, and they’ll surely fancy their chances against David Unsworth’s side. Everton have long been a force at this level, and they have a squad of experienced and talented players in their under 23 side. Experienced central midfielder Beni Baningime (22) who has previously played for Everton’s first team, is a tenacious player who is good at breaking up play. Another experienced player in this Everton team is 26 year old centre half (he can also fill in at fullback) Matthew Pennington, who played in Everton’s last under 23 game. However, one of their main danger men going forward is the prolific and inform centre forward Ellis Simms (19). Everton are an attacking team, at least they have been in recent seasons, they have also liked to get crosses into the box to test teams defensively, and to try and score goals. There is definitely no doubting that this will be a very difficult test for Spurs, and they will have to put in the sort of heroic performance akin to the one which saw them beat Arsenal two game weeks ago, if they are to beat Everton and return to the top of the league. New signings Tobi Omole and Marcel Lavinier could be involved again for the third game week running, while players who didn’t go out on loan during the EFL loan window such as Brandon Austin and Anthony Georgiou, could well be involved against Everton.

I believe that Everton are providing live updates on their website of tonight’s game while Spurs usually do their half-time and full-time updates on their official Twitter account, as games continue to be played behind closed doors. Finally, I would just like to wish the team all the very best of luck for the game.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Lavinier, Okedina (c), Lyons-Foster, Cirkin, White, Thorpe, Clarke, Markanday, Georgiou, Richards.

Subs from: De Bie, Omole, Pochettino, Bennett, Etete.

Injured/unavailable: George Marsh (serving the third of a three game suspension).

Doubtful: N/A.

Previous meeting: Spurs 3-1.

My score prediction: Spurs 2-1.

My one to watch: Everton’s prolific 19 year old centre forward Ellis Simms. The Oldham born player is a tall and strong striker who is good in the air, good at holding up the ball and linking play and good at finishing off chances from inside the box. Outstanding at under 18 level and a player who scored a good number of goals for the under 23’s last season, Simms has already scored four goals from Everton’s opening four games of this season.

Spurs under 23’s versus Arsenal: (match preview)

(This photograph is from Tottenham Hotspur FC)

After picking up four points from their opening two Premier League 2 games of the season, Wayne Burnett’s Spurs under 23 side will be going into Saturday’s North London Derby with Arsenal with good confidence in the squad (kick off is at 1pm). Always a highly competitive fixture, this game at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground (it is I believe being behind closed doors, so no spectators will be allowed in including myself), could see Arsenal make it four wins over Spurs at under 23 level in a row, should they win tomorrow. Spurs won one and drew one game from their opening two Premier League 2 matches of the season, while tomorrow’s rivals also won one and drew one of their opening two PL2 games of the season (they also beat Ipswich Town in the Checkatrade Trophy). Steve Bould’s Arsenal side have a fantastic squad of really talented young players who could make life difficult for Spurs on Saturday afternoon. 19 year old France under 20 international William Saliba who was signed from French side Saint-Étienne last summer, is a very highly thought of and talented central defender, who started Arsenal’s last under 23 game, so he could possibly start again tomorrow. Full Northern Ireland international Danny Ballard is another central defender, and he is a commanding one too, who has impressed against Spurs in the past at this level. Creative and highly skilful attacking midfielder Salah Oulad M’Hand (17) is an attacking player who has played in every game that the Arsenal development side have played in so far this season, and the young Dutchman is somebody who can and will take on and beat players. Also forwards George Lewis and Folarin Balogun are players who could cause Spurs’ defence some problems when the two sides meet. There is no doubting that this will be a very difficult game for Wayne Burnett’s side however, I know that Spurs have the quality to overcome Arsenal however, it does promise to be a fascinating game. I believe that Arsenal will be providing audio commentary for tomorrow’s game, also Spurs should be providing Twitter updates along with their match report on their official site. I would like to wish the lads all the very best of luck for this important league game.

My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Whiteman, Ferguson, Okedina, Lyons-Foster, Cirkin, White, Thorpe, Richards, Markanday, Bennett, Sterling (c).

Subs from: De Bie, Skinner, Pedder, Pochettino, Etete.

Injured/unavailable: George Marsh (serving a three game suspension).

Doubtful: Malachi Fagan-Walcott.

Previous meeting: Spurs 1-3.

My score prediction: Spurs 3-2.

My one to watch: Although there are so many Arsenal players that I could choose from, the one I’m going to choose for my one to watch section is clinical centre forward Folarin Balogun. The 19 year old is a very quick player whose movement off the ball and reading of the game makes him a very difficult player to defend against. Balogun scored 10 goals from 15 Premier League 2 appearances last season, so if he does play tomorrow then he is a player that the young Spurs defenders will have to be aware of.

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.