Steven Caulker Has Had A Long, Challenging Season For Tottenham


As Steven Caulker prepares for the European Under-21 Championships with England he can reflect on a long and challenging season at Tottenham.

Steven Caulker [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Steven Caulker’s long season still has possibly a fortnight to run as he prepares for the European Under-21 championships in Israel with England. His season started in late June as he prepared with the GB Team  for the Olympics. He played in all five games putting in impressive performances in the make-shift GB Team. While he was at the Olympics his team mates at Tottenham were getting to know their new manager, Andre villas-Boas, who replaced Harry Redknapp at the beginning of July. Caulker was only able to meet up with Spurs in early August after England’s exit from the tournament at the quarter-final stage. This gave Caulker only a matter of days before the start of the Premier League season to become acquainted with the new coach’s methods and ideas. Part of that time, in the week preceding the new season was spent in Switzerland as he had been called into the England for their friendly against Italy.

Tottenham Academy

Caulker is a product of the Tottenham Academy and is a player in whom many have high hopes. He made excellent progress in the previous three seasons while on loan with Yeovil Town and Bristol City, winning awards at both clubs, showing that they appreciated his talent and endeavour on their behalf. He made his first Spurs’ appearance in the Carling Cup in 2010 and played for Swansea’s in 2011-12 which was hugely beneficial to him as he was a regular member of the team at the centre of their defence. He gained good reviews as he built up his Premier League experience, having stepped up from playing in the Championship the previous year. The season past has presented him with numerous challenges with Tottenham and England. He has represented England at Under-19 and Under-21 level and made his full debut last November, scoring on his debut against Sweden.


Last season Caulker was a regular member of the Tottenham squad. He was looking to build on his previous season’s experiences with Swansea to establish himself at the centre of the Spurs defence. He started the season as fourth choice central defender at White Hart Lane, ahead of Michael Dawson but behind William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and new signing Jan Vertonghen. After his exertions during the summer, Caulker sat out the opening game at Newcastle but the injury to Kaboul resulted in him coming into the matchday squad for the matches against West Brom and Norwich.

His first action for Tottenham came in late September in the Europa League game against Lazio where he partnered Vertonghen. He impressed, overcoming a few nervy moments and proved a threat at set-pieces being unfortunate to have a header disallowed for minimal contact at a corner. His Premier League opportunity came in the next match against QPR. Injury to both Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton resulted in Gareth Bale starting the game at left back but after an unconvincing first half Caulker was introduced at half-time in central defence alongside Gallas with Vertonghen moving across to fullback.

Caulker retained his place for the next nine games in the League, Cup and Europa League while his central defensive partner was rotated by Villas-Boas. That run included Tottenham’s first win at Old Trafford since 1989 where he played his part as Spurs held out to secure victory. He scored his first Tottenham goal against Aston Villa but knew little about it as Jermain Defoe’s shot deflected off him. He missed the Europa League match against Maribor but returned for the next League match at Manchester City putting Spurs ahead in the first half.

England Calls

During this time Caulker had mixed experiences with England. He helped the England Under-21s reach the European finals but was caught up in the ramifications following the game in Serbia in October which ended in a mass brawl. Initially Caulker was banned by UEFA for two matches but it was overturned on appeal four months later. He was also charged by the Serbian police but those were dropped last January. In November Caulker made his first senior appearance for his country, scoring England’s second goal in a 4 – 2 defeat in Sweden. When Caulker was replaced after 74 minutes England were still 2 – 1 ahead before Ibrahimovic went on to score three times to complete his 4-goal haul. Caulker played for Spurs through this difficult period without letting the problems affect his performances.

Steven Cuulker [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Rotation

After his England debut Caulker missed the defeat at Arsenal with an injury. By then Michael Dawson had worked his way back into contention for a central defensive role, increasing the competition for places in the team. Caulker remained a regular as AVB rotated his central defenders and it was also at this time that Hugo Lloris claimed the goalkeeper’s position from Brad Friedel. This brought about a couple of incidences of uncertainty between Caulker and his goalkeeper as Spurs conceded late goals against West Ham and Everton. At Goodison Park it led to Spurs losing the game when they conceded two goals in 90 seconds in added time with the first coming from a poor clearance by Caulker.

Michael Dawson’s total commitment and enthusiasm as Tottenham captain saw him claim a regular place in the team with Caulker on the bench for much of the time from January on. He had a particularly difficult time against Leeds United in the FA Cup but neither he nor Vertonghen came out of the game with any credit. In those final four months of the season Caulker came in to cover in central defence when Vertonghen moved over to left back or if tactics dictated the need for additional height in the team as happened in the penultimate game at Stoke.

Overall Caulker made 28 appearances for Tottenham in his first season as a first team regular. He started 26 games and made two appearances as a substitute. He was an unused sub in 21 games so was involved in 48 of Tottenham’s 54 games during the season. He, however, failed to make a place in the team his own. He has finished the season as he started – fourth choice central defender, now behind Dawson in the pecking order but ahead of Gallas who looks set to leave at the end of the season.

End of a Long Season

Caulker will represent the England Under-21 team in the European Championships with games against Italy, Norway and Israel in their Group with the opening match against Italy is this evening.

His manager spoke highly of Caulker’s contribution to Spurs’ season when he spoke prior to the game against Swansea in March. Villas-Boas was reported in the Daily Mail saying,

"“The club has great expectations towards Steven’s future. I think for a first season back in Tottenham the amount of games he has played shows the quality that he has.”"

Caulker’s Future

Steven Caulker is ambitious and wants to see his career develop positively. He will want to be playing regularly in the Premier League as he was at Swansea but he knows that he faces stiff competition at White Hart Lane. Vertonghen and Kaboul, if recovered from injury, would be many people’s first choice as the centre back pairing and with Michael Dawson showing he is not going to give up his place without a fight, Caulker faces quite a challenge to break into the team regularly. Injury helped him in the early part of the season but he won’t want to have to rely on that happening again in the coming season. Tottenham will not want to lose a young, talented player who has progressed through their Academy to Premier League and England international standard. At 21 years of age Caulker is still learning and developing his game so the club may consider sending him out for another season’s loan to a Premier League club so that they can continue to monitor his development.

Whatever occurs in the coming weeks, Steven Caulker remains an integral part of Tottenham’s future. It’s not too often that a young player progresses through the Academy to the first team at White Hart Lane so it is essential to encourage and nurture his further development as a Spurs player.