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British Players Suffer in Spurs' Pursuit of Success

25/08/2013 23:02 BST | Updated 25/10/2013 10:12 BST

"It's a revolving door down there. In my first few years the policy was to buy young British players - like me, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson and Jermaine Jenas.

"Now most of us have left and it seems like the club is going the other way round and bringing in established continental players."

Those were the damning words of Tom Huddlestone after he left Tottenham Hotspur for Steve Bruce's Hull City last week for £5million, with fellow midfielder Jake Livermore joining him on loan at the KC Stadium.

The 26-year-old, who only started 11 times in the Premier League last season, is just one English victim of coach Andre Villas-Boas' revolution at White Hart Lane.

Central defender Steven Caulker has moved to Cardiff City for £9million, while former midfield linchpin Scott Parker has joined Fulham for an undisclosed fee. They follow hot on the heels of Jermaine Jenas, now playing Championship football with Queen's Park Rangers.

In their place is an array of expensive foreign talent designed to propel the club into the Champions League. Step forward Roberto Soldado (Spain), Nacer Chadli (Belgium), Paulinho (Brazil) and almost certainly Erik Lamela (Argentina), players of pedigree reportedly commanding an aggregate fee of £80million.

Their arrivals coincide with the anticipated departure of Welshman Gareth Bale, who is on the cusp of a world record move to Real Madrid. Bale is, of course, a different case: soon to be the most expensive player in history, whom Villas-Boas and chairman Daniel Levy have done everything possible to retain.

Yet it is telling that the club have not attempted to nurture mini-Bales. Rather, a club renowned for developing British talent under former manager Harry Redknapp have turned to the overseas market.

In Tottenham Hotspur's 5-0 win against Newcastle United in March 2012, a game feverishly anticipated as Redknapp's last before leaving to manage England, the spine of the team was irrefutably English.

The back four consisted of Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Ledley King and Bale, with Parker anchoring the midfield. Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe emerged from the substitutes' bench to confirm that the best of British was to be found at White Hart Lane.

Redknapp was not approached, found himself without a job despite finishing fourth, and now manages in the Championship. That season proved the nadir of Tottenham's British spine, too.

Statistically, things have not changed too much. Andros Townsend's mesmerising goal against Dinamo Tbilisi in the Europa League confirmed that the 22-year-old, whom Redknapp brought to Loftus Road last season on loan, is a bright young player. Danny Rose could convincingly challenge Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left-back, while youngsters Tom Carroll and Harry Kane are on the periphery of the first-team picture.

But as Spurs look to grow, with Jose Mourinho even predicting that they could challenge for the title this year, that is all the British contingent is: peripheral. Soldado scored 24 goals in 35 league appearances for Valencia last season, and will spearhead the attack ahead of Defoe. Chadli will replace Bale on the left-hand side; Paulinho adds steel and dynamism to Parker's former role; the incoming Lamela will surely suffocate Carroll and Kane's chances of breaking through.

Even the original change in management symbolises a continental approach. Dispensing of Redknapp at the end of the 2011/12 campaign in favour of a 35-year-old Portuguese suggested an attempt to modernise the club: Villas-Boas' frequent references to his job as a 'project' fit nicely with the management-speak that has pervaded the game. A thoroughly respected British coach was eased aside in favour of one of the best young foreign managers, just as a crop of British talent at the club have been transferred or edged onto the periphery in favour of expensive imports.

Is this a fault of Tottenham's? No, it isn't. Villas-Boas' objective is to qualify for next season's Champions League, and in the need for immediacy in football, he has acquired some of the best "established continental players" to give Spurs the best opportunity to do that. But if there was any club that was going to achieve success with a predominantly British spine, it was Tottenham, with their formidable track record of spotting gifted young players.

One of the messages Spurs have sent out with their business in the transfer market this summer is that they are a force to be reckoned with. Attached to this implicit announcement is a footnote confirming that to reach for the stars, you have to invest heavily in continental talent. And that means even less space for young British players.

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