As the transfer window slammed shut on English clubs, it was refreshing to see that Tottenham Hotspur didn’t make any expensive signings. Instead, they have found ready made players from deep within the club: academy graduates prepped for duty.
Now bear with me on this one. Many would have liked to seen a flagship signing, millions of pounds spent in order to bring glory back to White Hart Lane. Instead, three academy players have been given time and exposure in the first team. They are of course, Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb.
With the sale of Gareth Bale bringing a deluge of cash to North London, it would be fair to say that it hasn’t been invested successfully. Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli have shone, but others have struggled. Whilst going through this turmoil in the 2013-2014 season, it was Tim Sherwood who had the guts to bring in Bentaleb. The Algerian international has since frozen Etienne Capoue, a seasoned French International, out of the first team. He has shown a maturity and confidence which belies his age, even playing in the 2014 World Cup.
Ryan Mason, a relative unknown before the start of this season, has also come into the team from the academy and made an instant impact. Playing as a holding midfield, his aggression and work rate have stood out in a team which is probably known more for its attacking flair. When he is in the team, it gives the more attack minded players the freedom to go forward, knowing that he will protect the back four.
Last but not least is Harry Kane. The “HurriKane” as he is affectionately known. Having already scored 23 goals in all competitions from 35 appearances, he is rapidly turning into a terrace legend. Several spells at lower league clubs and time at the Spurs academy has molded this young Englishman into a possible national team call up.
But what is amazing is that had both Sherwood and current boss Mauricio Pochettino not had the confidence to blood these youngsters, all three would probably still be rotting in the development squad or on loan in the lower leagues of English football. As a passionate fan of our national game, seeing players like these getting the chance to play for their club is extremely pleasing. It doesn’t happen often these days. Club owners expect instant results. Prize money is a must after silverware, enabling a club to build for the future and sustain a healthy squad during the often brutal fixure list. Why would a chairman or owner turn to youth when they could spend a large sum of money on a household name? To them, unless they have some connection with the club, like a David Gold or David Sullivan at West Ham, a club is a business. It isn’t there to represent good will of the community or local populace.
Perhaps this could explain Tottenham’s dominant display over local rivals Arsenal. With three academy players involved for the Liliywhites, two of whom are locals, it just seemed that Tottenham wanted it more than them. Only Francis Coquelin and Chuba Akpom have had any real involvement with the Gunners youth set up; Akpom and the returning Theo Walcott being the only London born players who were involved. Winning local derbies means everything to players and fans alike, something that wouldn’t have been lost on Mason and Kane. Having grown up in the shadow of Arsenal, and desperately wanting to win that game, the result means just as much to them as it does to any Spurs fan. This is not saying that as professionals, players on either side didn’t want to win. But how can a player from Spain, Germany or Argentina identify with what it means to win the North London Derby.
Not only is the use of these academy players good for Spurs, but also for the league. With any hope, having cases as productive as these come through the academy, clubs in the league will start to look into their academies, searching for a player or two who could perhaps step up into the first team. Why can’t a local lad who is on the books of Newcastle or Aston Villa make it into the first team? After all, they only need a chance to showcase their talents.
One can only hope that teams in the Premier league look at their youngsters and give them a chance. Not only have they got a duty to develop these youngsters for their own gains, but it can also be said that they have a duty to develop them for the national team. Alan Hansen once said “You can’t win anything with kids.” A great man called Sir Alex Ferguson would disagree and so would I.
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