A recently released report commented on the reduction of opportunities for English Under-21 players in the Premier League. Tottenham in the season past have played their part in supporting young players as they try to further their careers in England’s top flight.A report produced by the The International Centre for Sports Studies highlights that only 35 English players under the age of 21 appeared in the Premier League last season and that five clubs did not use any English Under-21 players. BBC Sport reported that since 2005, the figure for time played by English Under-21 players has dropped from 10.55%, the highest of the top 5 European Leagues, to the lowest 4.45%. Manchester City, Chelsea, Swansea, Stoke City and Wigan Athletic were the guilty clubs who used no Under-21 players born in England. Tottenham are 4th on the list with 4.5% of minutes played by English Under-21s in the Premier League. Arsenal head the list with 10.5%, Liverpool are 2nd with just under 10% while Southampton are third on 6.5%. These figures are approximations from a graph in a further BBC report.
The figures have come to light as the European Under-21 Championships started in Israel with the England team losing by a single goal to Italy putting them in danger of elimination from the competition at the group stages if they don’t get a result against Norway on Sunday.
The Tottenham Under-21 team have had a very successful season, losing in the Final of the inaugural Barclays Under-21 Premier League at Old Trafford. It was only a second half fightback by United which saw Spurs lose out after they had finished top of the initial League section and the subsequent Elite section where they had been 3 points and then 5 points ahead of United. Of the players who represented Tottenham in the Final only two have any experience of playing in the Premier League – Tom Carroll and Harry Kane but Jonathan Obika made a substitute appearance in the FA Cup and Ryan Fredericks was involved in the previous season’s Europa League games.
In season 2012-13 Tottenham used 4 England players aged Under-21 – Steven Caulker, Tom Carroll, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane – in Premier League games. For all of them it was their debut season in the Premier League for Spurs although Caulker had played for Swansea in 2011-12.
- Steven Caulker (21) made his Premier League debut at home to QPR and appeared in 18 Premier League matches.
- Tom Carroll’s (21) debut in the Premier League was at home to Wigan and he made a total of 7 appearances as a substitute.
- Andros Townsend (21) made his debut at Reading last September and went on to make 5 substitute appearances in Premier League games in the first half of the season before going out on loan to QPR were he played 12 games.
- Harry Kane who is only 19 years of age made his debut at Newcastle in the opening game of the season, appearing as a substitute for the final five minutes. He then went on loan to Norwich but was injured after playing 5 games and once recovered spent time with Leicester City.
One other Tottenham Under-21 player who gained Premier League experience last season was Danny Rose (21) who spent the season on loan with Sunderland where he received good reviews in playing 27 games.
Of those 5 players, three were selected to represent England in the Under-21 Championships. A fourth Adam Smith spent the second half of the season playing for Millwall in the Championship. Andros Townsend had to withdraw due to the charges of gambling for which he is now serving a month’s ban. Kyle Walker, although now 23 years of age could also have been with the Under-21 squad if England followed the policy of Spain and other countries who field their strongest teams at these championships. England omit players who have become full internationals so Walker, Jack Wilshire, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Jack Rodwell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were not considered.
It was disappointing that a skillful player like Tom Carroll wasn’t included in the Under-21 squad. On his performances for Spurs over the past two seasons in Cup and European games and now in the Premier League he has shown a confidence and ability deserving of a place but perhaps his style of play doesn’t fit into the style preferred by the England management team.
England Under-20 Squad
Harry Kane has been included in the England Under-20 squad for the World Cup in Turkey as has Alex Pritchard who scored in the Under-21 Final last month after recovering from injury while on loan with Peterborough United in the Championship.
Tottenham have a number of exciting young players coming through from the Academy and the dilemma for the club is how to ensure their development and progression with appropriate experience at different levels of the game. Spurs have used the loan system to Football League clubs as well as to Premier League clubs in recent seasons as well as the NextGen series and now the Under-21 League to develop their young talent. They will be hoping that the money spent on the excellent training facilities will produce results in the coming years with young players becoming regular members of the Tottenham team for Premier League matches but it is a very difficult step up to that level and only the very best make. How many of the Spurs youngsters will make it?