Tottenham Academy Graduates Turn It Around For Spurs


At the end of the Capital One Cup match there were four Tottenham Academy graduates on the White Hart Lane pitch. All contributed as Spurs avoided the embarrassment of a Cup defeat by Championship leaders, Nottingham Forest.

The Tottenham Academy graduates, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Nabil Bentaleb all played their part in Spurs win last night. Townsend and Bentaleb started the game while Mason and Kane came on in the 64th minute as Mauricio Pochettino looked to energise his team which had just gone a goal down and were looking to be on their way out of the Cup.

The first hour of the game had seen Spurs playing as they had done against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. The team lacked energy and vision as they struggled to unlock the hard-working Forest defence. Townsend, who came through the Tottenham Academy, had tried hard to create something on the right in that first hour, looking the most likely Spurs player to make a difference. Surrounded, however, by two and three Forest defenders he was given little time or space.

Bentaleb who stepped up from the Tottenham Academy last December on the appointment of Tim Sherwood, played with energy and showed a desire to get forward. He was the one player in the team who tried to harry and press Forest in midfield. Some have been critical of Bentaleb’s performance but for me he worked hard and was at least trying to take the game to Forest. His final pass may have gone astray at times but he was no worse than than many others in a team that played like strangers.

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Tottenham Academy to the Rescue

A goal down Pochettino turned to his bench for inspiration. He had Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela available but instead chose two more Tottenham Academy graduates to get him out of the hole his team were digging for themselves. Ryan Mason and Harry Kane arrived in the 64th minute. He could have taken off Bentaleb but instead opted for Benji Stambouli and Paulinho.

Within minutes Mason released Soldado for the first time in the evening. To that point the lone striker had hardly received a pass. He did it again moments later and then Kane got in on the act, heading a cross into the hands of the Forest goalkeeper, the first time he had been called into any sort of meaningful action.

One minute later, Tottenham were level as Mason fired a shot from 25 yards into the net. Mason who has struggled with injury through the past number of years enjoyed the moment – his first goal for Spurs.

Spurs were back on track – Townsend fired a free-kick on to the bar and then a shot from 30 yards was deflected into the goal by Soldado. In the final minute Kane scored the third goal when set up by Lamela.

While the team had struggled for over an hour to string any meaningful passes together, the arrival of Mason and Kane saw them link up well with Bentaleb and Townsend. They exchanged passes with an understanding developed in the years of playing together in the Tottenham Academy teams. The understanding that had previously been absent in Spurs play. It is also something that we haven’t seen very much of in Spurs recent games.

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Well done to the Academy players – they had a major impact in the final minutes of the game and deserve credit. I’m not suggesting that they should start against Arsenal at the weekend but they should certainly be given more opportunity to show what they can do in the team.

Bentaleb and Kane are still young players, 19 and 20 respectively, and have time on their side. Townsend and Mason (both 23) have less time to further develop and so need to make an impact more quickly for their career development.

The Academy at Spurs has produced a number of promising players in recent years – Jake Livermore and Steven Caulker – but they have had to leave Tottenham to get regular first team football. It’s good to see the young players getting their chance at Tottenham who usually find it easier to go out and buy a player rather than wait for a young player to develop.