Spurs Youngsters in England Squad – Next Stop League 2?

Away from the travails of the first team, some good news this week. Spurs have four players in the England under 19 squad, John Bostock, Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason and Dean Parret. Congratulations to them all, and for many of us this may be as close as we ever come to seeing them.

Spurs have a poor record in bringing young players through into the first team. There’s the mighty Ledley of course, probably worth the total cost of the Spurs youth set up over the last 15 years just by himself, and Jamie O’Hara finally became a member of the first team squad before his successful loan at Portsmouth. Otherwise, if your son was talented, even as a Spurs fan, would you recommend that he came to our club? They bubble to the surface in a froth of expectation, maybe flatter at a few pre-season friendlies then sink through the divisions, although often they end up doing a decent job lower down the leagues.

The new training centre in Enfield could assist development but given that we are able to attract presumably some of the most skilful youngsters, we’ve done badly, or to put it another way have screwed up many promising careers. I seldom get to see the young players these days, but if you’re interested there are weekly reports on youth team matches here: http://www.spursodyssey.com. Of the above, Bostock came on as sub in a European game I think amid a buzz of expectation. Standing tall, he showed the poise and demeanour of quality and was apparently uncowed by his surroundings. At 15 he was coveted by all and sundry – there’s a Telegraph article from 2007 entitled ‘Meet John Bostock, aged 15 the Boy Barcelona Can’t Buy’. Now, he can’t get into the Brentford team and has returned from his loan spell amidst recriminations and a little spat between Redknapp and his dad. Word is that John was never quite as good as Palace made out and that he was pushed into their first team ahead of schedule in order to swell his value. Whatever, he’s not making progress with us.

Unfortunately, this is a familiar picture at Spurs, with fans bemoaning our inability to bring young players through. A quick glance at the team sheets of the mid 90s throws up the names of several young hopefuls, all of whom had a chance or two, admittedly during one of our many ‘transtional phases’ (allright, crap phases) but never made it. Caskey, Houghton, Mc Mahon, Turner, Butters,  Hill, Allen – they all looked good for their 15 minutes of fame (yes, even Butters) but are now curiosities in the ‘where are they now?’ file. There was a time where the guy at the front of the Paxton was so certain of his ability to pick a future star that he invested in a Spurs shirt with the name of John Piercy on his back.

It’s hard to know if there is a problem at Spurs. Although it is tempting to point the finger at the youth set-up, the reality is that the main problem lies outside the training ground. The demands of the Premier League for instant success are such that it is much more difficult than ever before for young players at any club to break into the first team. There is so little time for boys to grow into men by making mistakes and learning as they go. I’ve written before about the time it has taken for players with experience at previous clubs, like  BAE and Huddlestone, to develop into fully fledged first teamers, let alone the young men graduating from the youth team.

This is not unique to Spurs. Few other teams in the Premier League have a large proportion of home grown players in their first team. ‘Home grown’ – what a lovely phrase, redolent of stern bustling landladies with hearts of gold keeping an eye on their boys when they return from training. They feed them up, polish their shoes and are a shoulder to cry on for young men far from home and missing their mothers. These days, the term is meaningless. Spurs and other teams buy youngsters at 16 (Parrett joined us in this way from QPR Bostock from Palace)  and we purchase the best of the rest from Europe and beyond, Blondel and Jonsson coming to mind. Why should Spurs invest that much in a youth set up when we can let others do the work, or of course lose our best prospects to the bigger predators.

I have a soft spot for a ‘mum and dad’ story in football. There was a piece in the Guardian recently where Tom Huddlestone, this giant of a man, paid tribute to his mother who had dedicated her life to her then teenage son and his football. The highlight of the otherwise frankly lacklustre White Lane Tour for me (‘and here’s the stall where the boxholders can exclusively place a bet…’) was knowing that Jermaine Defoe bought his mum a West Stand box and she watches every game. Quite why this touches me so I’m not sure. JD is brash and cocksure but I have a vision of his mum grabbing him after the game and telling him not to whine so much and while she was about it, use a tissue to blow his nose instead of, well, the behaviour of street ruffians.

Bostock’s dad stepped in to defend his boy when times were hard for him. John is probably not used to setbacks in his football career so far, so I’m pleased dad was on hand. It’s a reminder that these boys are just that, kids. We demand that they cope with pressure whilst still in their teens that the rest of us could not possibly dream of. When I was 18, I was mootching about worried about greasy hair and acne, girls, exam results and girls, and all I had to deal with was being in the protected micro-society that was university in the seventies. To get where we are, we made endless mistakes and expected a little latitude while we sorted out our emotional growing pains, whereas as fans we impose a totally different, perhaps unrealistically high, set of expectations.

Let’s nurture our young talent. Push them to achieve their potential but remember that some also thrive with a protective arm round their shoulder. As fans we have to be patient and tone down our aspirations. We’re too quick to write them off. The idea of players out on loan, learning their trade in the lower leagues makes a lot of sense. But also let then know that the club is watching them and looking after them from afar. I wish them all good luck. I hear Ryan Mason is highly rated, and if anyone is going to Charlton today, let us know how he and the other loanees do, and try not to compare him with Johnny Jackson, a new arrival at the Addicks, with such a sweet left foot and a career at Colchester and Notts County….I’m sorry I can’t come and see you play more often- maybe we’ll meet at the Lane some day.

11 thoughts on “Spurs Youngsters in England Squad – Next Stop League 2?

  1. Very well-written article – I enjoyed reading that.
    I think you sum up the situation well in your final paragraph – “As fans we have to be patient and tone down our aspirations. We’re too quick to write them off.”
    I am guilty of this myself. I interviewed our Academy Director, John McDermott, on behalf of the COYS forum several months ago. He was keen to stress that it is no widely accepted that youth players now serve an “extended apprenticeship” – up to the age of 21. This is because players develop at different rates, and it’s wrong to write them off too early.
    I do think we have some real quality amongst our 16-19 year olds, particularly Townsend, Mason, Caulker, M’Poku and Parrett. The likes of Kane, Fredericks and Oyenuga also have a chance. However, there is so much that has to go in their favour for them to “make it”, or get a chance. I’d like to think that if we get into the Europa League, some of our youngsters will get a chance to shine next year.


    • Thanks for the comment. Interesting concept of the extended apprenticeship – I’d like to know more about that, got a link? It fits well with the idea of giving players time. The idea of players developing at different rates is SO OBVIOUS, yet do we as fans accept this? Doubt it.

      Regards, Al


  2. Great article .The one thing that baffles me about Harry sending our youngsters on loan is this we bought Bostock from Palace and he was along with others he was an integral part in our under 18 success. We all remember is cameo role when he came on and looked like he had the lot confidence left foot shot good pace and i speak for our fans we looked forward to the next appearance.The boy also enjoyed is run out with the first team and said he hoped to get more chances sadly it was back to the under 18 and tournaments and injury the taste of the first team is great start at Brentford and and is sudden departure from Brentford has upset is father and i agree is son has gone backwards instead of upwards.Harry quoted Frank Lampard has a example of his loan spell at Bournmouth Lampard started at west ham but Bostock had played for Palace in the Championship look at whiltshire he is at Bolton if your player is deemed to be a star dont damage is confidents by sending him to a struggling side that in my mind teaches’ s them bad football Quality breeds quality Bostock will learn more at spurs trainning ground than at Brentford struggler’s. And i dont think palace played him to up is price because it never worked and dont forget at 15 he captained the under 17 so he must have been Special bring them back Harry and lllet them learn the Spurs way not Yeovil and scattered allover game time is okay if you are learning of a team aiming for success not failure teaches .nothing


  3. Some very good points have been made in your article,and also in the comments section so far,yet it is unfortunate that these questions never seem to be put to Harry in a situation were he is faced with a good followup challenge to his answer if the interviewer is not satisfied with the given response,

    Might I then add a thought here,Alan,if yourself and other Bloggers were to add a column within your work consisting of the most frequently asked questions,by fans desiring their thoughts to be put to our manager,as it is a well known assumption that the reporters from the sports papers often scour the web in order to find juicy information,

    Now I like our Harry a lot,yet it concerns me that we have changed our game to suite a style of play that too often involves a long ball(precise fifty yard pass)to Crouchy,this seems way to predictable,and hence gives the opposition time to adjust in preparation to win the second ball,our build up play also seems a little lethargic at times when it should be quick sharp,one touch pass and move as this would in my opinion crack the most resolute of defences.

    This unease of mine however does not mean that I wish for the sacking of Mr Redknapp as he has I believe the understanding to move us onwards,and to commit his name to the Tottenham managers history department would again hinder our youth development,as a stable first team is a requirement to add the occasional youngster without fear of him affecting in a negative manner the teams running,or his own development,

    I would though appreciate more insight into his reasoning in his use of Peter as he for me is a much better footballer than we are currently seeing,just look at his performances for England where there is more ball to feet than head.

    Sorry for waffling on.


    • Hope you feel better foggy. I wasn’t bored reading your comment, although I think it might have been linked to the piece before this one. I’m really not certain that the papers read this, mate, but I’m sure that Harry would not give the likes of me an honest answer


      • Morning Alan,I’m feeling a little more positive today thanks,let’s hope the games just as pro-active,

        In relation to the papers I think you might be surprised mate,as a good journalist should search out what’s on the mind of those he writes his pieces for.


  4. The one thing i find has turned Spurs in to a long ball team is our midfield at times are to far apart by this i mean when passes the ball to say Moderic he gets isolated and surrounded and then tries a hard pass and loses it to play a passing game you need to be move pass and be there to resieve the ball back when we play away from home we should play a five man midfield and at home 352 formation till we kill of or get a lead then go back to 424. Or my favorite but all the names in a hat except Gomes and play them it works for Everton and some other teams they have loads missing and still win .Foggy what we need is to learn why Moyes and Benitez are confident of getting in to the top four i have only because i live twelve miles away.


    • I know what you mean Dave,it’s like I wrote in my comment far too often we play sideways when with faster more positive movement we could be far more devastating,as this would pull the opposition all over the park opening holes in their defence.


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