Our under 18’s first competitive game of football since late February take place this Saturday, when Matt Taylor’s side take on London rivals West Ham United at Little Heath Sports Centre (kick off is at 11am). A match which they will have been looking forward to since the Premier League South Fixtures were released earlier this week, this league match will be one that our under 18’s will be really hoping to win, to the start the season well. After a good season last campaign in the Premier League South in which Taylor’s side finished in fourth place in the league, the young Lilywhites will be hoping to build on that fourth place finish this season. This weekends game against West Ham will be a tough one, as the East London club did the double over us in the league last season, beating us 3-2 at Hotspur Way and 3-1 in East London. A talented and attacking side, Kevin Keen’s team finished in third position in the league last season after having played 17 games. Keen’s side has some exciting and talented players who are eligible to play on Saturday, one of those players is 17 year old centre forward and Irish youth international Ademipo Odubeko who scored a brace against Southend United in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night. A clinical finisher in front of goal, it is worth noting that Odubeko could well play for West Ham’s under 23’s who play against Chelsea in the PL2 two days after the under 18 game on Saturday, but he is definitely a player to watch out for if he is involved. Left winger and England youth international Amadou Diallo is another potent attacking player, but the skilful second year scholar featured prominently for West Ham’s under 23’s last season and might not feature on Saturday against Spurs. However, some of our opponents players who are more likely to feature include right winger Kai Corbett who scored four goals in 11 Premier League South games for West Ham last season.
Two more players who could well be involved for the home side on Saturday are centre backs Jamal Baptiste (first year scholar) and Michael Forbes (first year scholar). Baptiste actually made seven appearances for West Ham’s under 23’s last season while still a schoolboy, while Forbes was recently signed from Northern Irish side Dungannon Swifts. There is no doubting that this will be a tough and highly competitive first game of the season for Spurs, but it will be really interesting to see how they line up and also how many first years scholars they include in their squad. I would like to wish our under 18’s all the very best of luck for Saturdays game which is being played behind closed doors due to the current situation. Hence I will be unable to report on the game however, there will be a match report published on the official Tottenham Hotspur site during the weekend.
My predicted lineup: (4-2-3-1) Lo-Tutala, Cesay, Matthew Craig, Muir (c), Hackett, Cassanova, Devine, Mathurin, Robson, Whittaker, Scarlett.
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 Saturday if he does play. The former Manchester United schoolboy scored in our last meeting with West Ham last February, and for me he really stood out in that game with his fine movement off the ball. He will definitely be a player to watch out for if he is involved in Saturday mornings game.
Our under 18’s get their 2020/21 season off on Saturday morning when they take on London rivals West Ham United at Little Heath, in their first Premier League South game of the new season (kick off is at 11am). Head coach Matt Taylor currently has 25 players who are a part of his under 18 squad for this season (not including under 16’s who stepped up to play in friendlies during pre-season), this number of players in the squad is very unlikely to change, as players at this level very rarely go out on loan. After not having played a proper game of football since late February prior to this seasons pre-season friendlies, Matt Taylor’s under 18 side played four friendlies during pre-season. Playing against the likes of Oxford United and Ipswich Town’s under 18’s at Hotspur Way, Spurs won two of their four games however, results aside like for our under 23’s, our under 18’s would have just been so happy to have been playing football again in a competitive scenario. Last season Spurs’ under 18’s finished in fourth place in the Premier League South, 14 points of champions Fulham. Spurs had a bit of a difficult start last season due to it being a very different and new squad of players from the 2018/19 season when Spurs finished as runners up in the league however, we did come good last season. Playing an attractive brand of attacking football under Matt Taylor, we also looked well structured and were good at scoring goals and breaking teams down. Some of last seasons standout players for the young Lilywhites, were in my opinion Max Robson, Marqes Muir, Rafferty Pedder (now part of the under 23’s), Dermi Lusala, Kacper Kurylowicz (now part of the under 23’s) and J’Neil Bennett (now part of the under 23’s). We have got a really talented squad of 25 under 18 players for this season, with some of the younger ones stepping up to represent our under 18’s in competitive games last season. Winger and now first year scholar Roshaun Mathurin was one of those players to step up to the under 18’s on occasions last season, a very skilful player with an eye for goal, Mathurin didn’t look at all out of place in the team.
Left back and England under 16 international Jordan Hackett was another player who stepped up to play for the under 18’s, and I thought he looked really comfortable in the side both from an attacking and defensive point of view. Good at getting up and down the left flank, Hackett looked like a terrific passer and crosser of the ball, and he also read the game really well. Another England under 16 international in striker Dane Scarlett was another player who stepped up to play for our under 18’s on five occasions last season while a still a schoolboy, during the early stages of the campaign before getting injured. A centre forward with fantastic off the ball movement, Scarlett impressively featured along with fellow first year scholar Alfie Devine (also 16) for our first team on two occasions during pre-season. Yet another England under 16 international, recent signing from Wigan Athletic Alfie Devine was a mainstay in Wigan’s under 18 side last season while still a schoolboy, and he helped them to reach the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup. Operating primarily as a number eight in midfield, the highly technical Devine is clearly another very talented player who could well step up to play for our under 23’s during some point this season. So they are just some of the under 18’s first year scholars who I personally feel could make a big impact on the team this season. However, we also have a number of international youth players in our under 16’s for the coming season, one of those is England and Northern Ireland youth international and centre forward Jamie Donley who played for our under 18’s on three occasions during pre-season, scoring four goals. With a lack of recognised centre forwards in the under 18’s this season, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the schoolboy get a fair few minutes for Matt Taylor’s side this season just like Dane Scarlett did last season. As for the second year scholars I personally believe that the highly talented goal scoring midfielder Max Robson (17) could be one our under 18’s key players this season before he steps up to under 23’s, quick, skilful and clinical in front of goal, Robson is a real creative force and goal threat.
Central defender Marqes Muir (17) really grew into the 2019/20 season as it progressed and he was another very good performer, who could become a key player again in the side this season. Skilful and tenacious right back Dermi Lusala (17) is yet another player who again after having a very good 2019/20 season, could become another key player in the team, although I would imagine that he would step up to play for our under 23’s on occasions, as he did play for them on two occasions during pre-season. We have such a talented group of second year scholars however, the final second year scholar that I’d just like to briefly focus in on is 17 year old central midfielder and Scotland youth international Michael Craig. The twin brother of Matthew Craig who featured more prominently for our under 18’s last season, Michael who is a very intelligent midfield player, started the first few games of last season well before unfortunately getting injured last August. He hasn’t played a game since then and he wasn’t in the squad for any of our under 18’s pre-season friendlies. As it stands (I am not sure whether or not the Premier League Under 18 Cup is taking place this season) our under 18’s will just be competing in the Premier League South and the FA Youth Cup this season. Matt Taylor’s side will play two new teams this season in the Premier League South, one of them is Crystal Palace who join the division after being granted academy category one status (Swansea City dropped out of the league and are now a category two academy side). While the other team were already a category one academy side (West Bromwich Albion) but have joined the Premier League South having previously been in the northern division to make up the numbers, after Leeds United and Burnley joined that league. With teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham in the Premier League South, the league is always a very competitive and difficult one. However, with a very talented group of first and second years scholars this season, Spurs could in my personal opinion mount a challenge for the title just like we did during the 2018/19 season.
The FA Youth Cup on the other hand is an extremely difficult competition to win however, if players such as Dane Scarlett, Alfie Devine, Max Robson and Marqes Muir play for us in those games, then I feel that we have a good chance of going far in that competition. However, going back to the league which starts on Saturday, some of the standout fixtures include the North London Derby against Arsenal who we face for the first time in almost a year in game week two. Always an exciting and highly competitive fixture, that game is always one to look out for when the fixtures come out every season. However, games against the likes of talented, attacking and highly structured sides such as Chelsea and Fulham are always very difficult ones, as is the London Derby against West Ham who are another very good team. And in more recent seasons games against the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Reading have been difficult ones, and I would expect more of the same this season. When you support a club like Spurs who have one of the best academy set ups in the country if not Europe, you just can’t not be optimistic going into the start of each new season, and this season is no different for me. I feel that we have another fantastic squad of players who can achieve great things in both the Premier League South and the FA Youth Cup this season and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they get on. As I said in my preview of our under 23’s season, we are of course living in uncertain times due to the current situation, and as is the case with all of our under 23’s games, all home matches at the moment will not be open to fans. That is of course disappointing news however, it is also extremely understandable too, but I remain optimistic and hopeful that fans will be allowed back into see games in the not so distant future. In the mean time I shall keep on doing my match previews for games as well as keeping fans updated on Twitter about how our under 18’s and 23’s get on and what the results are, and who scored our goals and got our assists. As for away games at under 18 level I am unsure whether certain clubs will allow me in to report on games at this time, but I shall find that out nearer to the time.
I would like to wish our under 18 side all the very best of luck for the 2020/21 season and I have no doubt that they will do the club proud.
Spurs’ under 18 squad for the 2020/21 season (as it stands):
Goalkeepers: Thimothée Lo-Tutala, Isak Solberg, Aaron Maguire, Adam Hayton.
Fullbacks: Dermi Lusala, Jeremy Kyezu, Kallum Cesay, Jordan Hackett.
Central defenders: Marqes Muir.
Midfielders: Michael Craig, Matthew Craig, Nile John, Yago Santiago, Max Robson, Alfie Devine, Jez Davies, Khalon Haysman, Dante Cassanova, Oliver Turner, Renaldo Torraj.
Wingers: Romaine Mundle, Eddie Carrington, Roshaun Mathurin.
Forwards: Tarrelle Whittaker, Dane Scarlett.
Our under 18’s Premier League South fixtures for the 2020/21 season can be viewed on the official Tottenham Hotspur website.
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.
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.
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.
In my final in-depth piece on one of our academy players before the start of the 2020/21 academy season, I thought that I would write a piece on a player who I thought had a really good season for our under 18’s during 2019/20, Dermi Lusala. The Edmonton born right back who is also more than capable of operating as a right sided centre half or as a left back, was along with Max Robson and Marqes Muir one of our under 18’s best players last season, in my opinion. Lusala used to play for fellow London club Brentford prior to them shutting down their academy, and he would then join up with Spurs as a schoolboy in 2016. A student at St Ignatius College, Lusala was a very talented athlete as a schoolboy, a skilful, quick, agile and tenacious player, the 17 year old is currently in his second year of scholarship at Spurs after signing scholarship terms in the summer of 2019. 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 academy players a feel for what type of players they are, i.e. attributes and style of play. Having joined Spurs as an under 14 player, Lusala has risen up the various youth ranks at the club since joining them in 2016. The versatile defender was a part of the Spurs under 17 side that won the Euro Youth Cup out in Germany while still a schoolboy, and Lusala would even step up to play for our under 18’s in a competitive league game during the same season. Giving a good account of himself in that game against London rivals Chelsea despite the fact that he was rather harshly sent off later on in the match, I was very impressed with how Dermi got up and down the right flank so effectively and efficiently. The defender who has represented England at under 16 level on five occasions, was included in The Guardian newspapers Next Generation series 2019: 20 of the best talents at Premier League clubs, started pre-season of the 2019/20 campaign by travelling to Germany with a Spurs under 19 side to compete in the annual Oberndorf tournament.
After getting a good amount of game time at the Oberndorf tournament Lusala started the season with our under 18 side. He made his first competitive start for them of the season in our league opener against Fulham in August 2019, he would then go on to make a further 18 competitive appearances for our under 18’s before the season was curtailed in March 2020. The then first year scholar would also step up to play for our under 19’s in the UEFA Youth League on four occasions, giving a good account of himself in each of those games. Lusala was in my opinion a very consistent performer for Matt Taylor’s under 18 side throughout the season, and he really helped the defence in big games, like those against Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup and then league leaders Fulham. Had the season have gone on any longer then I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to have seen the young right back feature for our under 23’s in the PL2, such was the way in which he was playing for our under 18’s prior to the curtailment of their season. Since the academy players returned to training for the pre-season of the 2020/21 campaign, Lusala has featured in two friendlies for our under 18’s and one for our under 23’s, in a 3-1 win over National League South side Dulwich Hamlet. I would imagine that Lusala will make his competitive debut for our under 23’s at some point this season, he would be competing with Jubril Okedina (19) for a place in Wayne Burnett’s side. So what type of player is Dermi Lusala? Well he is a very attack minded right back who is able to combine both his attacking duties with his defensive duties very well. He is a good athlete who is quick and he gets up and down the flanks very well and effectively, he is also a very skilful player. And he reminds me in some ways of how Kyle Walker-Peters used to play as a right back at the same age, as Lusala is just so skilful and capable of beating players with both skill and pace.
Lusala likes to go on long surging forward runs down the right flank and he also likes to overlap the Spurs winger on occasions. He loves to skip past players to evade them when he is going forward and with his strength (even though he is not the biggest of players), balance and agility he is difficult to just shrug off the ball, and that is a real strength of his game. A fullback who loves to dribble forward with the ball at his feet, Lusala is also quite creative with the ball out wide and his crosses are good ones. Although he loves to go forward down the flanks Lusala is also defensively disciplined, and he is a very good defender too. Superb at making sliding challenges, the Londoner is a reliable player who reads the game well and who maintains good positioning during games. He is a solid player who has great stamina and I really felt that he grew into the 2019/20 season as it went on, and he got stronger and stronger during the campaign. Part of a very talented 2003 England age group of which includes Jude Bellingham and Karamoko Dembele, Lusala’s inclusion in the England under 16 side as a schoolboy must speak volumes for how highly he is rated within the England youth setup. The right back who was competing with Kallum Cesay for a place in Matt Taylor’s under 18 side last season, really showed his versatility throughout the campaign, filling in with great effect at RCB, LCB and left back, this was extremely impressive that he is able to play anywhere across the back line. There are three games in which Lusala has been involved in for our under 18’s over the last couple of seasons that I would just like to focus in on as I bring this piece to a close. The first game was in fact Lusala’s debut for the under 18’s in their penultimate league game of the 2018/19 season against Chelsea. Operating at right back the then schoolboy got up and down the right flank so well during that game. Not afraid to take players on and beat them, Lusala held his own at the back and showed his strength and fine reading of the game.
Also making some good challenges throughout the match the defenders game was harshly brought to a sudden halt, when he was adjudged by the referee to have been the last man when bringing down a Chelsea forward on 79 minutes. Lusala had been covering for somebody else at left back when he was shown a rather harsh straight red card. The second game that I’m focusing in on came in an under 18 league game against Fulham last season, when he operated at left back. Again showing good anticipation, Lusala was brilliant going forward going on many a skilful and purposeful run however, the quality of his challenges against the high flying Fulham players was very good. He also made one outstanding late defensive intervention to prevent Fulham from scoring an almost certain goal. The final game came against Leicester City’s under 18’s shortly before Christmas in 2019, when Lusala played at RCB alongside Luis Binks. Reading the game really well for a player who isn’t a centre half, Dermi was really commanding and aggressive in his defending at the back, making some good blocks and he also brought the ball out well from the back as Spurs won the game 4-3. After enjoying a tremendous 2019/20 season I would like to wish the very promising Dermi who should be very proud of himself, all the very best of luck for the new 2020/21 campaign.
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.
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.
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.
Powerful, pacey and hardworking centre forward Gerry Armstrong may have started playing football at a relatively late age, but his career and route to playing at two World Cups was a remarkable one. Armstrong was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and he grew up in the Springfield Road area of the city. He was an avid Gaelic footballer during his youth and it was only due to a suspension from the sport that he started playing football. Starting off with Cromac Albion before moving onto Bangor, Armstrong was spotted and signed by Spurs in 1975 despite strong interest from rivals Arsenal. He would spend five years at the Lilywhites, making 96 first team appearances (not all of which were in competitive games) and scoring 32 goals. The Ulsterman who would have a great career with Northern Ireland on the international stage, would later play for the likes of Watford, Real Mallorca, West Brom and Brighton at club level. Armstrong now works as a football analyst and commentator in Ireland, after having worked as a coach. I was fortunate enough recently to have the great pleasure of interviewing Gerry who is a really nice man, about his time at Tottenham Hotspur.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Gerry: Growing up as a kid I played all Gaelic football but as a kid you’d play football on the streets you know, and there weren’t many people that had footballs then, if you did then you were counted lucky to have a football that you could play with in the street. There wasn’t that many cars around on the road so you could play with the lampposts or use something to make the goals, and so that was the sort of football that I played. There wasn’t that many areas with fields however, because my family were all into the Gaelic football I went to St Johns GAA and my grandfather was the founder. I used to go up there and play on the pitch all of the time and I used to bring a hurling stick and ball, and a football with me to play football. I got myself into the sport and it was all good but then it wasn’t until later on and I was older, sort of 15/16 that I started playing a little bit more soccer. 1969 was when the troubles started in Northern Ireland and my school soccer team had a lot of players who couldn’t play because some of them had been interned and taken away. So they couldn’t play as they had been interned as 17 year olds, so they asked me in the soccer team to play, so I did but I played as a centre half, and I captained the team after a few weeks. I captained the team to the senior schools cup final then which was called the Sir Robert Kinehan cup, and I captained the team to the final and we beat Carrickfergus High School 3-1, and I scored a couple of goals in that game even though I was playing centre half. I scored a header and a volley and so we won the cup, and I don’t know if they’ve ever won it again, but that was my first introduction to soccer. Then afterwards some guy came up to me after the game and asked me if I’d like to go on trial to Everton. And I said no as I wasn’t really interested in soccer, as I was just playing it for fun.
Then shortly after that I got suspended from the Gaelic for fighting and I got suspended for a month, and so I started playing a bit more soccer. I played some games for a club called Cromac Albion and I didn’t play many games for them, it was only a handful like three or four. And I was spotted in one of the games by the manager and assistant manager of Bangor football club and they saw me playing and they invited me down to Bangor to train with them. So I went to Bangor and started training with them and I was enjoying it as it was good fun. They had a semi-final of the Steel & Sons Cup on the Saturday and they said would you come along, but I couldn’t start because the players had done well to get there, but they put me on the bench. The game was against Civil Service and I came off the bench with about ten or 15 minutes to go with the score at 1-1, and I came on and I made a goal and scored a goal. However, I punched the centre half after the third goal and I so I was only on for Bangor for ten or 15 minutes.
What was it like making that transition from Gaelic football to football?
Gerry: It was fun for me because it was new sport for me, and it was fun for me because I loved soccer and I watched and followed Leeds as a boy since I was seven years old. I followed the Leeds United team and I was a big fan of Mick Jones and Allan Clarke who were the two centre forwards at the time, I watched Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles in the middle of the park, and Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter as the two centre halves. So I’ve followed Leeds all my life and the funny thing was that my first goal for Spurs was against Leeds and that was a crazy one at Elland Road. However, the transition was fun in one way but it was difficult in another, because I didn’t know all the rules, and the rules of offside and what have you were difficult for me to pick up at first. Especially when you’re trying to time runs and get them right, but I caught up quickly and I was a good athlete, and I was very strong and I had very good attitude and determination. So that was all the attributes to have, it was just a question of honing my skills and making them work for me. At the time I had only been at Spurs for six months and I was watching the likes of Glenn Hoddle and what he could do in the gym and Neil McNab and some of the players, so that was crazy. However, I then realised that I had other skills that they didn’t have, I had pace and power and an attitude and determination, and I was good in the air. That’s one of the reasons why Keith Burkinshaw tried to convert me to playing at centre half after a couple of years however, I liked playing in more attacking roles, and I always liked playing in those attacking roles. So I wasn’t playing centre half although I did play a lot of games for Spurs at centre half.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Gerry: It was a crazy one because a lot of clubs had shown interest in me when I was at Bangor, and the manager Bertie Neill used to keep me informed. And he used to say that we’ve got Liverpool watching you one day, and Coventry watching you the other day along with Arsenal. And it went on a long time like that for a while but because Terry Neill had played for Bangor, and he was the manager of Tottenham. Myself and another fellow called Jonny Jameson were invited over to Tottenham for three or four days to train, and then we went over to Tottenham. We stayed in digs for three or four days in Chingford with the Brett family, and Peter Shreeves would pick us up and take us to training every morning and we trained with the reserves. It was great fun and and watching what it was like a bit from a professional point of view, and on the first day we trained and then on the Saturday we had a match against the RAF at Hendon. I scored a couple of goals in that and I done well, and then on the very last day that we were training we had a practice match where the first team was playing the reserves. I played for the reserves and it only lasted 25 to 30 minutes but I scored the only goal for the reserves against the first team and I thought that I’d done pretty well again, but then afterwards we went back home. I didn’t hear anymore from Tottenham for a long time and I didn’t realise if they were still interested or not, but Arsenal had continuously chased me and there was a scout in Belfast who watched me a lot. He was trying to sort me out and get the deal done, and Bertie Mee I think was the manager of Arsenal and he contacted me a couple of times to say that the club wanted to sign me, and that they were making progress on signing me.
I played soccer on a Saturday but then I represented the county on a Sunday playing senior Gaelic football for County Antrim, and so I played Gaelic every Sunday. I had a phone call about half 11 one Sunday morning, and I was told by the chairman of Bangor to meet him at the back of the city hall in an hour. He said that you were going to sign today, and I thought that the deal was done with Arsenal, so I got into the car at the back and we drove to a hotel just outside Belfast called the Dunadry Inn. I got there and I walked in and I couldn’t believe it as Terry Neill was there, he had flown over and I was signing for Spurs. I spoke to Terry Neill with my manager and he negotiated the contract for me on my behalf, and I signed a contract for Spurs on that day. I then had lunch with all the directors but it was good fun and it was exciting as well, obviously as a 20/21 year old going across the water and getting an opportunity like that was just great.
Could you talk me through your competitive first team debut for Spurs against Ipswich Town on the 21st of August 1976 and how it came about?
Gerry: Basically it was the first game of the season and we were away from home, and you know what we played really well. We played really well and I had some good chances and the keeper made a couple of good saves, and I was really surprised because Alan Hunter was the centre half for Ipswich and he was very good in the air, and he read the game very well. And he was also very experienced, but the guy who was alongside him who I didn’t know too well was Kevin Beattie and he was so quick and strong and good in the air as well. So the two of them were to good competitors but I loved it as I was a very competitive person anyway, and we (Tottenham) played really well, and if you ever look at the replays of the game, I don’t know how we didn’t get something out of it. We should have won it or we should have at least got a draw out of it but we made a couple of mistakes at the back and we paid the penalty. I was really disappointed because I wanted to do well on my debut and come away with something but it wasn’t to be however, it was exciting and I really enjoyed it. So that was my debut for Tottenham.
Prior to joining Spurs were you aware of the rich history that Spurs had had with Irish players over the years?
Gerry: Yeah obviously I knew Pat Jennings and he was very good to me when I joined the club, and he was one of the first people to come up to me in the dressing room and say congratulations on joining Tottenham, well done and I hope you do well. However, he was on a different level to me as he was a big name and he was really successful and had done it all so he was amazing. However, I was only at Tottenham six months and before my debut Terry Neill had put me forward a lot of times, and I was then selected for a friendly match in Israel. I then got to know Pat Jennings even more because he was a teammate then when I was in the Irish squad for the first time, and it was more for experience than anything. Terry Neill had told the manager Dave Clements that I had done really well in the opening six months that I had joined Spurs and I was coming on really well in the reserves, and that it wouldn’t be long before I was in the first team and that I could be one for the future. There were plenty of occurrences that certainly helped along the way but meeting Pat Jennings was great however, Steve Perryman was another one. He was a top man and he was the captain but he ran the club from the dressing room, and the players had so much respect for him.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Gerry: It was brilliant and for me it was a great club to play for and I made a lot of good friends and I still have a lot of good friends from my time at the club. I speak to Glenn Hoddle quite a bit and I speak to Pat Jennings every other week and we’ve become very good friends, we roomed together for ten years on the international scene. Paul Miller was another one who I was close with when he was coming through the ranks, and he was coming through the reserves at the same time as me and I still keep in touch with Paul, but there’s plenty of players who I still keep in touch with as well such as John Pratt. And also Ossie was great fun and I had him as a guest of mine on the show (Gerry and Friends) and so I’ve always kept in touch with Ossie as I love him, and he’s a good guy. However, Spurs was a really close club with lots of friends and family, and I’ve got nothing but good memories at Tottenham I have to say. However, it was one of those where Tottenham were moving up and they had signed Garth Crooks and that limited my opportunities to play up front, and we also had Ian Moores and Colin Lee and Chris Jones, so we had a lot of strikers. However, Keith Burkinshaw had his heart set on me playing centre half and I was a good centre half I know I was, but I just didn’t want to play there it was just as simple as that. I told him that I didn’t mind helping the team out if they were struggling when we had injuries on occasions and I was able to fill in. However, in those days you have to remember you could only have one sub and the sub was on the bench, I could play in at least five, six, seven positions so I was a very good choice to be sat on the bench and be brought on to fill in a gap where someone was injured or whatever. He knew that he would always get 150% out of me and I liked Keith, he was a very good coach and he did brilliant for Tottenham in his career.
However, he was the start of a lot of good things and bringing Ossie and Ricky over from Argentina was pretty big at the time, and Tottenham have always had a great reputation of playing good football and stylish football. Certainly when I was at Tottenham it was great and entertaining and I enjoyed my five years, but I knew that I had to move on if I was going to progress. So moving to Watford was the right thing even though it was down a division, and sometimes you have to move downwards before you move up, and I got the opportunity to play more as a striker under Graham Taylor. And a lot of the success I had at the World Cup I put down to Watford and Graham Taylor’s regime, he got me fitter than I’d ever been and I used to be really fit at Tottenham. I actually still hold the record for the fastest lap at Tottenham.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Gerry: Heroes and inspirations were all throughout my days as a Leeds fan because you know I followed Leeds, but if you’re playing football yourself you then find out when you’re playing against them. Some of the players that I played against were class and I’ve told you about Kevin Beattie and wow he just got better and better and better, he was just a fantastic player. Dave Watson was another one who was a really tough opponent, and Dennis Smith at Stoke I can remember scoring against him, but we had one hell of a battle. We were relegated and we were fighting to go back up again and I filled in for John Duncan and I scored twice that day and we beat Stoke 3-1, but it was a brutal match and myself and Dennis beat everything out of each other. I loved those type of games but he loved it as well to be fair, he was a battler and he didn’t mind me getting stuck in or hitting me back either. So it was fun but I loved the camaraderie that you had in football, so you could beat everything out of each for 90 minutes on the park, but then afterwards when you get off the pitch it’s ok, it’s all over and you’re done and dusted and you get over it.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Gerry: I played mostly as a centre forward certainly in my first two or three years at the club, but then when we had problems and injuries I played in other positions. It all started when went over to Sweden and I can’t remember who it was, or if it was Keith Osgood who was the centre half at the time but one of them was injured. Steve Perryman was playing at the back as a sweeper and they brought me in as a centre half to play in the opening game against some Swedish team in pre-season. The centre forward must have been at least six foot five or six foot six, but he couldn’t jump, but I could and I had good timing. So Steve said you attack the ball and I will sweep round behind him, so I used to attack the ball and Steve would come up, but I also had pace and I wasn’t afraid to pull out of a tackle. I was tough enough that I could look after myself so they were all really good attributes to have at centre half, and I did do well. We beat the Swedish team in the first game and then the second one was the final and it was against Leicester City and Frank Worthington was the centre forward and he was class, but he wasn’t quick enough to get past me. I was too secure at the back let’s say so we had a good day, but I think that we were Second Division then and they were First Division and we beat them 2-0 and I had a good game and I think that Keith definitely preferred it that I had to play centre half on my own, and he wanted me to play centre half. So whenever we had a problem I would play in that position, I remember when we went to West Bromwich Albion and he (Keith Burkinshaw) said to me that he wanted me to play centre half against West Brom on Saturday as they had Cyrille Regis who was really quick. However, Keith thought that I could handle him, and he put me in at centre half and I played there.
He played me at right back against Millwall and I think that I might even have played in goal, but I know that Glenn Hoddle played in goal a couple of times. However, I could play in midfield roles and I could play on the right hand side and on the right wing, so I played in numerous positions. So when I was a sub and whenever I was brought on I was thrown up front as a forward or at the back as a defender, so I could play at the back, in midfield or up front. However, Graham Roberts was a midfield player to start off with but then Graham ended up going into defence as a centre half as he was very versatile. However, that was the early days and I was playing for Northern Ireland as a centre forward, the week that we played Stoke, I’m sure it was October or November we played Stoke and we beat them 3-1. Then on the next day on the Sunday I went to join the international team for a World Cup game against Belgium in Belfast. I’m sure that it was against Belgium at Windsor Park, I had played with George Best up front in Germany, Frankfurt about four or five months earlier in a friendly match, but this was a World Cup qualifier. I scored the first goal and the third goal and we beat Belgium 3-0 and I had scored two that day, and two on the Saturday against Stoke. I can remember going back on the Thursday and coming back into training on the Friday and Keith said well done you’ve had some week, you’ve got two in the qualifier and two for us. Then we had another game (Spurs) John Duncan was fit so I thought this will be interesting, does he stick with me or does he go with John, anyway I went in and I trained on the Friday. The team sheets were up on the wall and I looked at the first team and I wasn’t in, so I thought he must have put me on the bench, but I looked at the bench and I wasn’t on the bench either.
So I then had to go to the other sheet which was the reserves and I was on that sheet as centre half number five in the reserves at Bristol, so I wasn’t happy about that. Peter Shreeves was the manager of the reserves and I had a chat with Peter but he just said that he was doing what the manager tells him to do and he wants to play you at centre half. I thought I don’t want to play in that position so that’s when I knew that I had to get away from Tottenham and become a striker, but I continued playing as a striker for Northern Ireland until the 1982 World Cup when I was played on the right wing as a right wing back. So I was played in that role because I had a lot of energy, and I was quick and fit and strong and I could defend, so the manager Billy Bingham thought that I could play at the back and help Jimmy Nicholl at right back, as I played in front of him. And then also I could go up as well with Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside who had come on the scene at 17 however, he was naturally left footed, so you had Norman on the left and Billy straight down the middle, whereas I was coming in behind him at the far post. It worked really well because I was coming in from deep positions and nobody was picking me up, and I ended up scoring three goals in that World Cup, so I could see the method in his madness for Northern Ireland. However, all those things happen for a reason in your career and I believe that that happened for a reason as well.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Gerry: Well I used to watch Martin Chivers play and Martin was a fantastic athlete who was a great striker of the ball however, I didn’t have the touch that Martin Chivers had. I was more rough and ready and they (Spurs) looked at me more as a Bobby Smith you know as I was more akin to him than anybody else, but Bobby Smith did really well for Tottenham and he was a bustling centre forward. So I was probably more like him than anybody else however, Mick Jones at Leeds was that kind of centre forward as well, and he was good in the air and he was one of those who would stick his head in and not be frightened to get a kick in the head. He was also a brave lad as well, but I was more that type of player as I was committed.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Gerry: All the time. I used to watch Glenn Hoddle with both feet and I talked to him about that on my show, but he could do anything with his left foot and he could then do it just as good with his right foot. And I used to ask him what was his best foot and he would say that he didn’t really know, and the fact that we worked on it from a young age is something that younger players can listen to and learn from and also practice with both feet. I thought that George Best was much the same as he was just as good with his left and right foot, and them sorts of players are once in a life time and I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a better player play for Tottenham than Glenn Hoddle you know. I also don’t think that I’ve seen a more skilful player for Northern Ireland than George Best, so you learnt from people like that but they weren’t my type of player but what I did want to do was improve my level of fitness. And also improve my knowledge and obviously my touch as well however, if you improve your knowledge of the game and your touch then you can do things better. If you’ve got a good first touch then you’ve got a chance of scoring and also getting the ball with your second touch, as if your touch is poor then you are not going to have possession of the ball for too long. So that’s what I worked on in the gym in the first year that I was at the club with Glenn Hoddle and Neil McNab and players like that, but everybody was trying to improve their game. However, the one thing and it took me six months to realise was that I was gifted with an attitude and a determination and I was gifted with pace and power, you know you can’t be quick you’re either quick or you’re not quick. You can obviously improve your fitness levels but there are certain things that you cannot change, that’s why some players don’t always make it because there is a commodity missing.
I realised after six or seven months that I had certain attributes that I had to work to and improve on, and to try and make them work for me and that’s what I think I did.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Gerry: Well the fact that Keith had made his mind up and wanted me to play centre half made me know that I was more of a utility player at Tottenham, and I wanted to play up front to make myself more of a striker. I was happy playing in a more attacking role, I also didn’t mind playing on the right hand side or in the middle, but I wanted to play in a more attack minded role. So that was what prompted me to leave Tottenham and that was the only reason that would make me leave Tottenham, because I knew that opportunities would be few and far between up front in terms of the other strikers that they had there. However, it was a good fee, in fact it was a record fee at the time for Watford buying me and then for Spurs obviously selling me, and so I was at Watford for three years. Then straight after the World Cup I was really flying on top after winning the golden boot for the best British player after scoring three goals, and we (Watford) had been promoted and I scored the first goal for them against Everton in top flight football. So that put us 1-0 up and then Pat Rice scored and we ended up winning 2-0, then in the next game we played Southampton away and I remember coming up against Peter Shilton and Mick Channon and Kevin Keegan and those boys. We ran riot and I scored there as well and I was just scoring goals for fun and suddenly after four or five games Watford were top of the First Division and it was just absolutely unbelievable. Everybody had tipped us to be relegated again but we were top of the league after four of five games, then in a game I jumped for a ball and I landed awkwardly on my ankle and I broke my ankle (my fibula and tibular). That was just one of those things that happens but that was five weeks in to the season, and that was me ruled out for three or four months.
When I came back from it there were a lot of clubs showing a lot of interest in me and one of them was Real Mallorca, and that was what prompted me to go to Real Mallorca in Spain. I thought that it was another challenge and I wanted to try out different leagues and what have you, so I took the opportunity I don’t know why but I did to go to Spain and play for Real Mallorca. I was at Real Mallorca for two years and I scored my first goal for Real Mallorca against Barcelona and that was a diving header, that game was against the likes of Maradona and Carrasco so they had a great team. I learned a lot about Spanish football and their style of play, and they were very technical but they didn’t like the physical side of it and that’s why they bought me because I was very strong and physical. They wanted a British style centre forward and I was quite successful at Real Mallorca and I had two years with them, before coming back in time for Johnny Giles’ West Bromwich Albion. At West Brom I went on loan at the end of the season to get some matches because I broke a couple of ribs, and when I actually came back I started training with Tottenham when Peter Shreeves was the manager. So myself and Pat Jennings trained at Tottenham and then I would drive up on Saturdays and play for Chesterfield during the last seven or eight weeks of the season to help them stay up. That was some match practice for the 1986 World Cup, and then after the World Cup I signed for Brighton under Alan Mullery who had asked me to sign for them before the World Cup, and in the end I did. That was a great experience as well as Mullers was a top man, and that’s where my professional career in the game came to an end.
What was the greatest moment of your footballing career?
Gerry: It would have to be playing in the World Cup finals for your country for me, and not just going there but also winning the group and finishing top of the group, and scoring the winner against the host nation Spain was one of my best days when nobody gave us a chance, so that has to be at the very top. However, I’m not being funny but we won the British Championships twice in 1980 and 1984 and that was a surprise because we weren’t one of the best teams and we didn’t have one of the best squads. The Scotland and the Wales squads were a lot better than us but we still had a great team and camaraderie which was what it was, we had great spirit and determination and we were very well organised. And of course we had Pat Jennings in goal and that always helped as well.
Who was the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Gerry: I think playing against Maradona he has to be the best player that I’ve played against certainly, but George Best was the best player that I’ve played with and also Glenn Hoddle. I’ve played against Michel Platini and I’ve played against some great players in World Cups over the years and a lot of German players were class such as Sepp Maier who was in goal, and they were the World Cup winners in 1974. They had one great team with players such as Karl- Heinz Rummenige and they just had such a great team however, the greatest player that I’ve played against was Maradona, it has to be.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories or ones which stand out from your time at Spurs?
Gerry: When you score your first goal for your club that is always a standout moment and as I say scoring against Leeds was great but we went on to lose that game 2-1. However, we came back a year later and we beat them 2-1 and I scored twice, so in my two visits to Elland Road with Tottenham I scored three times, so you make little steps at the start in your progress and then you get into the first team squad. You feel comfortable that you are recognised as a first team player and you’re playing on the same pitch, but one of the games was unbelievable when we were playing Manchester United away and Ossie scored the winning goal, but Glenn ended up in goal, so I’ve had some unbelievable games.
Who was toughest player that you ever came up against?
Gerry: There’s so many of them, I told you that I had a real battle with Dennis Smith so certainly he was one and when I played at international level as well I played against Migueli, and he was always ready. I remember that he jumped in with his feet and caught me in the back of the neck once with his knees, I mean these guys were tough but Migueli was a tough competitor in Spain for Barcelona and his nickname was Tarzan, but they were all tough opponents to be honest with you. However, you have to have the right attitude though as it’s always about the attitude with me.
I couldn’t interview you and not ask you about your time playing for Northern Ireland at the highest level. What was it like to play for them and play for them at two World Cup?
Gerry: Representing your country is fantastic and I don’t think that it gets better than that when you put the green shirt on and you represent your country you are very proud of that. When I made my debut and Danny Blanchflower was my manager and he was a legend, and he said to me son you’re playing against West Germany and they’re world championships and you’re playing up front with George Best. George was one of my heroes as a kid and I thought that it won’t get any better than this when you are playing up front with George Best against the World Cup winners as it was special. You want to do well but you’re nervous of course and we lost the game although we played really well for an hour however, I loved playing for Northern Ireland and especially to win two British Championships and to play in two World Cup finals. My last game for Northern Ireland was against Brazil alongside the great Pat Jennings who had his last game as well winning his 119th cap, and so that was a pleasure and a privilege to play alongside Pat at that time.
What was it like to play under the great Danny Blanchflower for Northern Ireland?
Gerry: You know he was a breath of fresh air and in his company he was great and could make you feel ten foot tall and that you were the best player in the world, and that you were so good. However, he was always funny and a very wise man who seen the game from a different level, he always wanted to play attacking football and if they score three goals then we’ll score four. So if he’d have went to Barcelona he would have been the perfect foil there however, Danny was great and he only saw the plus sides of everything and the players loved him, I don’t know any of the players that played under him that didn’t love him as Danny was class. He was just a lovely man and I remember speaking to him after he had got Alzheimer’s and the year before I remember talking to him, and then the year later he didn’t even remember me and that was horrific.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Gerry: Yes Noel Brotherston was one in the reserves and we were together for a year and a half in the reserves, because I was in the reserves for most of that time and then Noel got a couple of games in the first team as well. However, he knew that he had the chance to play for Blackburn and that was the right move for him and him and his wife Lynne moved up to Blackburn. I was very close with Noel and we were good friends, I also shared digs with Chris McGrath at the start and me and Chris were in digs together for three months at Ms Walters on Tottenham high road, and she had a big flat up above a supermarket, I think that it was Tesco’s. And we were up in the flat above the supermarket and I liked it but Chris was very very quite but he was in the first team at the time. So we became good friends and then gradually when I got into the first team more I became more friendly with Pat Jennings, and even when Pat went to Arsenal we were still teammates with Northern Ireland and so I’ve always been close to Pat.
After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?
Gerry: They are my first club and it’s the first result I look out for every week, it’s funny when you end up signing for a club and you do start looking for the clubs results. And even though I supported Leeds when I was a boy I always look at Tottenham’s results first and then I look at the Watford’s results and then you check all the other clubs you played for, and it’s funny because you do want them to do well as you have an association with them. I was on loan for two months when I was at Brighton with Millwall and I played up front with Teddy Sheringham for two months and Teddy went onto play for Spurs, and he is a good friend now and I still keep in touch with him now as he is a good lad. However, you meet some good friends in football and there is a great association and camaraderie there and Barnsey was one, and he had two great feet and could run all day and then you watch him evolve as a fabulous footballer and do what he does.
(Charlie is pictured in the centre of the front row of the above photograph)
After first being part of Millwall’s youth set up Charlie Sheringham joined Spurs’ academy as a 14 year old in the early 2000’s. The centre forward who is the son of former Spurs great Teddy Sheringham, would play for the Lilywhites at youth team level until he was 16 and when he was not offered a YTS. He would later be on the books of Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace before playing for the likes of Welling United, Bournemouth, AFC Wimbledon, Ebbsfleet United and Saif Sporting Club. Now 32, Sheringham currently plays for National League South side Dartford United. I recently had the pleasure of catching with Charlie about his time in the Tottenham youth set up during the 2000’s.
What are your earliest footballing memories?
Charlie: That would be watching my dad from the age of five and watching him play football for Nottingham Forest and Tottenham when I was very young.
What are your earliest memories of your time at Spurs and how did you come about joining the club?
Charlie: I was there for a couple of years from the age of about 14 to 16 when Micky Hazard was my manager for a couple of years. And Jimmy Neighbour was sort of the under 16/under 17 manager at the time, and yeah we used to train at Luxborough Lane in Chigwell and I grew up around the area. So it was a good time for me training and playing for Tottenham Hotspur, I couldn’t have asked for more.
What was your time at the Lilywhites like on the whole?
Charlie: I was young and I didn’t get offered a scholarship in the end, and so I was just playing in the youth teams and having a couple of training sessions a week, and then playing at the weekend. However, it was good and it was tough, but obviously I enjoyed it.
It must have been very difficult not being offered YTS by Spurs. What was that like for you?
Charlie: It was quite frustrating as I had kind of been led to believe that I was going to get one funnily enough. However, then I was a small and slender kid at around 15 years old and they had some big strong boys in my age group and they went down that route. So I was obviously gutted not to get one but things happen and you move on.
Did you have any footballing heroes/inspirations and if so who were they?
Charlie: My dad was number one really as a kid, and obviously he was the one person who I looked up to, especially playing football.
Could you describe to me what type of player you were and what positions you played in during your time at Spurs?
Charlie: I was a centre forward and a clever goal scoring centre forward is how I would describe it.
Who were your greatest influences at Spurs?
Charlie: While I was there Micky Hazard was my coach and he was just brilliant, he was fantastic as a coach and he had a good way about him. I used to enjoy coming into training as he had a lot of enthusiasm and he used to join in with us and he was still really skilful, obviously playing against 14 year olds he still looked great, but yeah he was really good. He was the main coach.
Were there any players at Spurs who you would watch closely to try and improve your game or look to learn from?
Charlie: Well as a kid you try and do anything to make it to the first team so I suppose I was looking at them all.
What prompted you to leave Spurs and could you talk me through your career after you left the Lilywhites?
Charlie: Well what prompted it was that I wasn’t offered a YTS so I wasn’t wanted anymore. And then I ended up playing for a few teams, I went to Ipswich and Crystal Palace as a young professional and then was between the Conference and the lower leagues. So I played for Wimbledon, Bournemouth and Dartford in the Conference and they were the main clubs that I’ve played for, and I’m still playing for Dartford now.
What has been the greatest moment of your footballing career so far?
Charlie: When I ended up leaving Tottenham I ended up winning the youth cup the next year with Ipswich. Then making my debut and scoring a goal for Bournemouth in League One against Brentford has got to be one, so probably scoring my first professional goal in the league has got to be up there.
Who has been the greatest player that you have had the pleasure of sharing a pitch with?
Charlie: I used to play against Gareth Bale most times we used to play Southampton, I think that he was my age or the year below me, so I used to play against Gareth Bale a lot. Adam Lallana and Theo Walcott were also all in that same Southampton side, and another who might not go down well with Tottenham is Nicklas Bendtner as a kid, and he was exceptional. So from my Tottenham days that was who I used to play against at that age.
Could you talk me through some of your favourite memories of your time in the various Tottenham youth teams.
Charlie: It’s a long time ago now but it was just a good time and obviously it’s just an unbelievable club and just to be part of it at a young age was great. I think that we went on a couple of tours and we played in the Nike Cup which was fun, but just being around Tottenham was great.
Who is the toughest player that you have ever come up against?
Charlie: When I made my debut for Bournemouth I played against Harry Maguire and that was tough.
How big an influence has your father former Spurs great Teddy Sheringham had on your footballing career?
Charlie: Obviously he was a massive influence, most people’s dads usually are in the football world, and mine just so happened to be a professional footballer at the same time.
Were there any players at Spurs who you were particularly close to?
Charlie: There’s a few who I still talk to and have a little bit of contact with such as Stuart Lewis, Josh Cooper and Luke Prosser are the ones that I’m still in touch with, and get in contact with now and again.
What would your advice be to the young Spurs players of today as they look to break into the first team?
Charlie: Make sure you give it your best shot and 100% as it all goes very quickly, because it’s a massive opportunity.
After all these years how do you look back on your time at the Lilywhites and is Spurs a club who you still hold close to your heart?
Charlie: Obviously I was very young and I was only at Spurs for a couple of years, so I didn’t quite make it to the YTS set up which was a shame. However, it was just a good time.