Comparison Of Spurs’ Use Of U-21 Players With All PL Clubs – Exclusive


The England Under-21 team’s disappointing performance in the European Championships in Israel has shone the spotlight on Under-21 players in the Premier League. Recently statistics were released by The International Centre for Sports Studies which illustrate how little time English players aged under 21 play in the Premier League. Tottenham were fourth best but was it enough?

Steven Caulker – Spurs U-21 player with most PL playing time last season. [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]The report produced by The International Centre for Sports Studies  highlights that only 35 English players under the age of 21 appeared in the Premier League last season, playing only 2.28% of the total minutes played in 2012-13. Tottenham were the fourth best team  with 4.5% of the minutes played by English Under-21 players.

Arsenal were the top club with approximately 10.5% of time played while Liverpool were second with just less than 10%. Southampton were third (6.5%) and Tottenham came next. Manchester City, Chelsea, Swansea, Stoke City and Wigan Athletic used no English players who were under 21 years although Welshman, Ben Davies, did play regularly for Swansea (3049 minutes).

The English player who had most playing time during the season was Southampton’s Luke Shaw who played 1950 minutes. Next came Liverpool’s Raheem Stirling on 1748 minutes with Jack Wilshere 3rd on 1696 minutes. Tottenham’s Steven Caulker was 4th having played 1575 minutes from 17 starts and 1 substitute appearance when making his Premier League debut for Spurs against QPR last September.

Andros Townsend gained PL experience at QPR. [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Tottenham’s other players on the list also made their Premier League debuts last season. Tom Carroll played 78 minutes of Premier League football in a number of substitute appearances. The other two Spurs players had the majority of their playing time away from White Hart Lane. Andros Townsend  played 1047 minutes but only 29 minutes were for Spurs, the remainder being while on loan at QPR. This made him 8th on the list while Harry Kane played 138 minutes, 4 minutes for Spurs as a substitute at Newcastle on the opening day of the season and the rest with Norwich before suffering a serious injury.

Only 10 players had over 900 minutes, the equivalent of 10 full matches in the Premier League while at the other end of the scale, 14 of the 35 players played 90 minutes or less with 2 making an appearance of only 1 minute.

HotspurHQ has obtained the figures for each player and Premier League club, courtesy of ICSS.

Number of English Under-21 Players used in the Premier League (2012-13) (by club):

Liverpool – 5 (inc. 1 who played for 1 min.)

Newcastle – 5

Tottenham – 4 (inc. 2 on loan – Townsend & Kane)

Southampton – 3

Arsenal – 3

Manchester United – 2

Reading – 2

Sunderland – 2

WBA – 2

Fulham – 2 (inc. 1 who played for 1 min.)

West Ham – 2

QPR – 2 (inc. Andros Townsend on loan from Spurs)

Aston Villa – 1

Everton – 1

Norwich – 1 (Harry Kane from Tottenham)

The three players Arsenal used have all played at full international level for England – Wilshire, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson with all of them playing over 1050 minutes during the season. Manchester United’s Phil Jones played 1205 minutes and two Liverpool players completed the top 10 – Andre Wisdom and Jonjo Shelvy. Conor Wickham played only 451 minutes for Sunderland last season having cost the club £8m in June, 2011.

Barclays Under-21 Premier League

The Premier League made a big thing of the introduction of their Under-21 League last season but it will still require a massive step up from that level to Premier League football. Of the players who contested the Final between Tottenham and United quite a number were English born but few have any Premier League experience. Only Carroll and Kane have appeared in the Premier League for Spurs, although both Caulker and Townsend were eligible to have been included in the team. The remainder while mostly younger players have had little experience even in the Football League and a number were not English. Similarly, United’s team had limited Premier League experience although quite a number of them were English born and local players, from around the Manchester area.

The competition has had little impact on clubs and their team selection for Premier League games with them being permitted to use the competition to give senior players match practice as they return from injury or a spell out of the senior team. Managers are focused on results and the demand for instant success so the development of young English born players is not their top priority when they’re trying to preserve their positions at the club.

Tom Carroll gained limited PL time with Spurs [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]

Tottenham, although losing the Final at Old Trafford, had an exceptional season at Under-21 level but how many of those players are ready to step up to the first team? Tom Carroll is the obvious choice with Harry Kane who turns 20 years next month and Alex Pritchard (20) showing promise. There are a number of younger  players coming through the Academy and Development Squad but they will require further development and nurturing in the next couple of seasons before any definite comment can be made on their future. The team contains young players with huge potential but not necessarily all English born as more an more clubs scout across Europe and around the world in search of the most talented young players.

A Possible Solution

The only way that young players would have a chance to develop and gain experience in the Premier League would be if there was a rule requiring each club to include a stipulated number of Under-21 players in their matchday squad with some of them having to play for at least 30 minutes. Clubs would then have to consider which of their younger players could serve them best within the squad and provide them with the experience to develop their potential. Those players, however, would not necessarily be English born as European employment rules would probably prevent any rule being imposed which would restrict opportunities based on nationality.

While the England team both at full international and Under-21 level continue to fail to make an impact at the various tournaments, the Premier League continues to prosper. The clubs have their own agenda and will not be willing to accept any changes which would have a negative impact on their prospects financially or to win trophies so for the foreseeable future, it would appear that English football will continue a long a familiar pathway.