Tottenham’s NI Milk Cup 2012 Experience

As the Tottenham Under-17 squad and officials return to London today, they will reflect on a busy week at the Northern Ireland Milk Cup 2012 tournament. Their win over Co. Londonderry  gave the young team third place in the NI Milk Cup Vase section, overall finishing in 11th position. It was a hectic week of five highly competitive matches in six days with an official opening ceremony and parade in Coleraine on Sunday evening. For the players it was an opportunity to experience the lifestyle of a professional footballer – playing in a tournament, staying in a top class hotel, training and match day preparations to be completed, travelling around  to each match by coach and the attention accorded to any player associated with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. For the officials it will have been a time for assessing the development of the young players they have probably been working with for some time and how they have coped individually and as a group.

The Milk Cup Tournament

This was the 30th Anniversary of the NI Milk Cup so the organisers of NI Milk Cup 2012 know how to put on a competition. It is an exceptionally well run tournament with great organisation and preparation ahead of the draw made in late June, which I had the pleasure of attending, through to the actual week of the competition. Everything ran very smoothly which is due to the hard work of all the volunteers who give their time, energy and talents so willingly each year to ensure the success of the Milk Cup. All of the venues provided great facilities with the pitches in excellent condition in spite of this year’s excessive rainfall. The decision to give the six County teams a home match in their own county widened the attraction of the competition and matches were well attended. The organisers will already be thinking ahead to next year but as they reflect on this year’s competition, the words of Harry Voss, the Tottenham goalkeeper who was injured in Spurs’ second game, will be an encouragement to them. He enjoyed the tournament in spite of being able to play for only part of one match and is looking forward to returning next year and said, “The Milk Cup is a tournament you look forward to coming to.” High praise from a very level headed young player. Congratulations to all the organisers and volunteers for another successful tournament – I’m sure you faced problems during the week but you coped exceptionally well with all that was thrown at you.

The Matches

Five matches in six days is a busy schedule for any team but even in the last game against Co. Londonderry both teams were fully committed and giving their all in those final minutes as they tried to score the winning goal. For someone who didn’t know, they could have thought that it was the pening match of the tournament such was the energy being expended. Tottenham won two, lost two and drew one match. They were facing opposition who were older, taller and physically stronger than most of the Tottenham squad. They competed well in every match but in the two games they lost, they faced South Coast Strikers and CSKA Moscow, two very strong and well organised teams. apart from those defeats, the disappointment for the team will be that they didn’t win their opening match when the opportunity was there to take all three points.

‘Twitteresque’ Match Reports:

Drew 1 – 1 with Co. Armagh. Took early lead & were in control before conceding a goal in 2nd half through an error & then missing a penalty. (Full match report: here)

Lost 1 – 7 to SCS. Struggled to cope with speed and strength of SCS who showed their intent early on. Kept trying to play and never gave up. (Full match report: here)

Defeated Otago 4 – 0. Grew in confidence as the match went on scoring two goals in each half. Young players showed their ability and talent. (Full match report: here)

Lost 1 – 2 to CSKA. Better team performance against very strong side. Conceded two in first half. Spurs strike came too late to change game. (Full match report: here)

Defeated Co. Londonderry 2 – 1. Very competitive match. Spurs ahead but Co. L level before h/t. Late goal as both teams went for the win. (Full match report: here)

The Squad

Spurs Squad at Milk Cup 2012 (Apologies to those omitted)

The Premier Section of the NI Milk Cup is an Under-17 competition for players born on or before 1st January 1995. Most of the Tottenham squad were much younger that that, fifteen or younger. Five players who were in last year’s squad returned to take part this year but Spurs were facing teams comprised of sixteen year old players who were much more developed physically. For the most part the young Spurs players coped with those disadvantages and were able to display their own ability. For the Tottenham coaching staff they were wanting to see how the player dealt with this situation as part of their footballing education and experience.

The Tottenham style is to play the ball out from the back so all of the players have to be confident in possession. Very rarely, even under pressure, did a Spurs defender clear the ball long to avert danger – it always had to be passed to a colleague, which sometimes brought more pressure. The two full backs are expected to push forward which can leave the defence exposed with the central defenders having to cover the full width of the pitch. The midfield look to play quick passing movements trying to create space and find a pass to let someone move forward. They all worked very hard and rotated their positions frequently across midfield. Spurs played mostly with one striker but the midfield players were quick to get forward in support with defenders moving up as well. The players are expected to adapt to playing in different positions with different roles and responsibilities.

Liam Priestly (G/k): Played in four matches and replaced the injured Harry Voss in the other game. He was at last year’s Milk Cup and has grown in confidence as a player in the past twelve months. Played well and made a number of good saves through the tournament.

Harry Voss (G/k): The injury against South Coast Strikers meant he was unable to play in any other matches. Made a number of good saves in that game to deny the Strikers and keep the score down. Was injured when diving bravely at the feet of an advancing striker.

Kodi Lyons-Foster (D): Plays at right back but can also play in central defence. He was part of last year’s Milk Cup team. A tall defender who can move forward on the right to support the midfield and attack. He has represented England  in the Under-16 team.

Kane Vincent-Young (D): He had a limited number of games where he played in central defence and also at left back. He captained the side.

Connor Ogilvie (D): Played on the left side of central defence for the first four games and was a late substitute in the final match in that position. He played last year and has developed well as a defender, strong in the tackle and the air, who also likes to get forward for a strike on goal. It was his cross that led to the winning goal against Co. Londonderry. He has played for the England Under-16 team and is in the present Under-17 squad.

Channing Campbell-Young (D): Played at full-back and central defence. He is very quick and can use his pace to play himself out of difficulty. Scored the goal against South Coast Strikers when, from right back, he was the farthest player forward to meet a cross into the area.

Jon Magbadelo (D): Had limited opportunities but played in central defence and then at right back in the final match which seemed to be a new position for him. A tall, strong defender he grew in confidence in that final match and got forward on goal when the goalkeeper made a good block on his shot/cross.

Amon Walton-Owens (D): Played at left back in the opening game when he constantly switched position with Anthony Georgiou on the left side of midfield.

Anton Walkes (M): Introduced as a substitute into midfield and started as a holding midfield player in front of the central defenders for Otago match. He played a very disciplined game which helped keep the team’s shape and then played well at left back in the final match being able to defend and get forward in attack.

Harry Winks (M): Very capable and hard working player with a good touch in midfield. Worked tirelessly throughout and combined with other midfielders looking to find a pass to get someone free and looking for a shot on goal. He is in the  England Under-17 squad.

Luke Amos (M): A young player with ability – great confidence, always wanting the ball even when playing against older players. Has good vision and passing ability. Worked hard for the team and good combination play in midfield.

Jon Pritchard (M): Worked hard in midfield but also played at left back, getting forward to support the midfield.

Cy Goddard (M): Another young player with talent – who wasn’t discouraged when facing taller, stronger opponents. Good passing in midfield but also able to get forward in support to create space for others.

William Miller (M): Played well in midfield making an important contribution to the team. Worked hard and interchanged well with other midfield players. Got forward on goal to score against Otago.

Anthony Georgiou (M): Played mostly on the left of midfield but also dropped back into defence. Had one game on the right of midfield. A fast tricky midfield player who worked hard and caused problems for opposing defenders.

Nathan Oduwa (F/M): Started as a lone striker and scored in the opening minutes of the first match. Loves to get the ball and run at defenders, drawing them to him – was later asked to drop deeper into midfield to look for the ball and then had matches on both wings. He was a handful for defenders and good work late on against Co. Londonderry was rewarded with the winning goal. Played in last year’s tournament. He is in the England Under-17 squad.

Shayon Harrison (F): Had limited opportunities but showed his goal scoring touch against Otago and Co.Londonderry – played both as a striker and on the right of midfield.

Emmanuel Sonupe (F): Has pace and caused problems from the right side of midfield. Also moved forward as a striker and played on the left. Was at last year’s tourmanent and has played for England Under-16s.

All of the players brought credit to the club for the sporting and disciplined way in which they played but also for the exemplary way they conducted themselves throughout their time in Northern Ireland.