Tottenham's Ranks Are Brimming With Young Potential

While winning the Under-21 Premier League or the NextGen series may do little to excite the White Hart Lane faithful, the importance of such achievements should not be underestimated.

With Tottenham Hotspur's senior side stuttering through the season under new coach Andre Villas-Boas, it may come as some consolation to fans that they boast one of the finest youth teams in Europe.

In the past fortnight alone, Spurs' youngsters thrashed the cream of Barcelona's acclaimed La Masia academy, winning 4-1 away from home in the Under-19 NextGen Series, and then smashed Southampton 4-0 in the Under-21 Premier League.

The free-scoring side also beat Manchester United's youth team 4-2 in October, while in last year's NextGen competition they hammered eventual winners Inter Milan 7-1 in the group stage, only retiring from the tournament after inadvertently breaking the rules by fielding two underage players in the quarter-final victory over Liverpool.

Leading their respective groups in both competitions this year, they are a decent bet to end the season with some silverware.

It has not always been this way in N17. Until recently the only players of real quality to have emerged from Tottenham's youth system were defenders Sol Campbell and Ledley King, now both retired.

But now the academy is producing talent on a far more regular basis. In recent months Enfield lads Jake Livermore, 22, and Steven Caulker, 20, have earned England call-ups, while home-grown midfielders Andros Townsend, 21, and Tom Carroll, 20, have gradually been gaining playing time in Tottenham's senior side this season.

Other notable names include promising forward Harry Kane, whose loan spell at Norwich has unfortunately been blighted by injury, and gifted midfielder Alex Pritchard, both 19 years old.

Almost forgotten among the current crop is Danny Rose, 22, currently on loan at Sunderland, who sealed his place in Tottenham legend on his 2010 debut with an absolute screamer in a 2-1 win over Arsenal.

These English academy products are complemented with foreign starlets such as Iago Falque, 22, who learned his trade in the youth sides of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. Falque has impressed when deployed on either wing in the cups this season and deserves a chance in the Premier League should either Aaron Lennon or Gareth Bale lose form or fitness.

Up front, Spurs have two potentially brilliant strikers in Shaquile Coulthirst, who grabbed a hat-trick in the win over Barcelona, and Ivorian forward Souleymane Coulibaly, dubbed the 'next Didier Drogba' after winning the golden boot with nine goals in four games at the Mexico 2011 Under-17 World Cup.

With Daniel Levy determined to balance the books and Tottenham's net spend over the summer totalling just £1.5 million, the club cannot afford to keep up with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City or United in terms of wages or transfer fees. This puts added emphasis on the importance of bringing through young players capable of playing at the highest level.

Ajax and Barcelona are the two examples that Spurs must follow. The former recently embarrassed Manchester City in the Champions League with a team full of academy graduates assembled for a minute fraction of what City's squad cost; while the core of the latter's superlative side all came up through La Masia together.

Tottenham took an important stride into the future this summer in moving from the rustic Spurs Lodge in Chigwell to the £45-million Hotspur Way in Enfield. A world-class training complex by all accounts, it should provide the perfect breeding ground for the club's next generation.

With state-of-the-art training facilities now at their disposal, Tottenham can also count upon highly rated youth development coach Tim Sherwood to nurture up-and-coming talent.

The club's long-term future was clearly at the forefront of Levy's thinking when he dismissed seasoned but short-sighted manager Harry Redknapp in the summer and replaced him with the more modern and continental Villas-Boas.

Despite the impatience of fans, the chairman must now stay patient and back his man.

While Villas-Boas has struggled to implement his vision for the club so far, he has been working with considerable restrictions. Having inherited a team that finished last season in awful form, he then saw creative lynchpins Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart depart, with Levy failing to adequately replace them by leaving a deal for Joao Moutinho too late.

Clint Dempsey was nothing but a panic buy, a square peg in a round hole, and the most impactful new arrival Mousa Dembele has since joined a considerable list of key players in the treatment room.

So this will be a transitional season. With a below-par Arsenal side inevitably still snatching fourth place from Tottenham's grasp, success at youth level may be the best that fans can realistically hope for.

While winning the Under-21 Premier League or the NextGen series may do little to excite the White Hart Lane faithful, the importance of such achievements should not be underestimated.

Tottenham have long lacked the winning mentality of Manchester United or even Chelsea, memorably choking when on the cusp of reaching the FA Cup final (2010, 2012) or Champions League qualification (2006, 2012) in recent years.

To change this, the players must get used to winning at every level from a young age. If Tottenham's youngsters can start bringing home titles, they will not only develop their abilities, but also their belief to do the same at senior level in the years to come.


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