Tottenham appoints new under-23 coach ahead of Checkatrade Trophy

YEOVIL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Manager of Dagenham
YEOVIL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Manager of Dagenham /

Just over two months since the tragic death of Ugo Ehiogu, Tottenham have appointed his successor at the helm of the under-23 side.

Wayne Burnett will preside over the highest level of Tottenham’s youth setup in the team’s first season playing for the Checkatrade Trophy, a competition that features both teams from the Football League and invited Premier League academy sides.

Last season Spurs opted to compete solely in the revamped Premier League 2, which welcomed academy teams from the Premiership and Championship. They finished the season in eighth place.

In 2017/18, Tottenham will stay on in the PL2 but will also compete in the tournament format of the Checkatrade Trophy. A group stage in the autumn will precede knockout rounds in the season’s latter half.

With Manchester City also entering the tournament this season and Chelsea already involved, Spurs have good reason to take the competition seriously. Burnett’s arrival, then, heralds a commitment to challenge for the trophy.

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The 45-year-old featured for both Huddersfield and Grimsby in his playing career before entering into coaching in the lower leagues. Though he’s coming to Spurs from the Football Association’s coach development area, prior to that he served as gaffer for League Two’s Dagenham & Redbridge.

Such experience will serve him well as he attempts to ring the best out of Tottenham’s most advanced group of youngsters. He will have plenty to work with, though perhaps not as much as he might prefer.

Mauricio Pochettino is ever-willing to give chances to Spurs’ younger players. Dele Alli remains the shining emblem of that policy, but in recent seasons Harry Winks, Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers have all benefited to varying degrees as well.

With those players — along with Kyle Walker-Peters and Kazaih Sterling — all slated to be even more involved in the senior squad this season, Burnett might find himself short of options most weeks.

That is, unless, Pochettino and Spurs as a whole are willing to put faith in Burnett and the Checkatrade Trophy.

Most English academy sides are little more than the step between development and the first team — or, more likely, a loan or sale to another club.

Other leagues, most notably Spain, allow their under-23s to compete in the lower levels of the national set up, right alongside professional senior sides. That affords young players plenty of real world experience while also permitting the club to be in control of every step of the process. No more loans to clubs that might not meet the same standards, methodology or tactics. It is all one pipeline, from academy to the lower leagues to the top division.

The Checkatrade Trophy is the Football Association’s attempt to replicate that system without dramatically overhauling the entire Football League. With Chelsea, City and Spurs’ academies all overflowing with talent, the competition should be embraced.

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That is, so long as it doesn’t thin Pochettino’s options on matchdays. Development should be a priority, but the senior team’s efforts obviously take precedent. Still, striking that balance should be one of the more intriguing storylines of the coming season.