Why Tottenham must start recruiting more in the Championship

Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Premier League
Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Premier League / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

The Championship is where it's at for value signings. This isn't to say Tottenham shouldn't recruit from the continent and beyond, that would be pretty fickle of me. But they must look in the Championship.

Don't be fooled by the failed signings of Joe Rodon and Djed Spence. Panic buys that reeked of desperation do not speak for the abundance of talent in England's second tier.

The Premier League is full of players made in the Football League. Ollie Watkins is in the conversation for player of the year and he began learning his trade in League Two before his three years at the Championship Brentford was ended by his £30m move to Aston Villa in the summer.

The consensus was that Villa had overpaid for someone unproven beyond England's second tier - how wrong they were. Villa's smart and shrewd recruitment saw a player capable of making the step up, and they are reaping the benefits. Watkins has 19 goals and 12 assists (SofaScore) in the Premier League this season to go along with his elite all-round play.

Of the England team that started against France in the World Cup quarter-final, only three players - Declan Rice, Phil Foden, and Bukayo Saka were not developed in the football league before making it in the Premier League or other top 5 leagues.

Even in other national teams, there are EFL fingerprints. Portugal consistently plays Rúben Neves and Diogo Jota, who learned their trade at Wolves in the Championship.

Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves
Wolverhampton's Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves. / Sam Bagnall - AMA/GettyImages

Crystal Palace are a great example. Eberchi Eze and Michael Olise were signed from QPR and then Championship Reading. Things could look a lot better if Spurs had signed Eze instead of Steven Bergwijn in 2020. Easy to say in hindsight, of course, but recruitment teams are supposed to see things that aren't glaringly obvious.

Adam Wharton is a much more recent "what if" for Spurs. Wharton was another top signing by Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman, for a reported initial fee of just £18m, which could rise to £22m (Wikipedia).

£18m is not a fee that should have been an issue for Spurs, so you cannot put it down to them being outpriced for his services. Wharton would have slotted so easily into the Spurs team. Spurs have had issues in midfield this season, with Ange trialing several different "double pivot" duos without coming across a clear preferred option.

The Crystal Palace man would have comfortably been a guaranteed starter for this Spurs team. Whether it be with Yves Bissouma, Rodrigo Bentancur, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, or Oliver Skipp. He is a better player than any of those players and they would have all been fighting to be his partner at the heart of the Spurs midfield.

In a 14-game (13 starts) sample size, Wharton has created 5 big chances and created 1.4 chances per game. He has made 1.4 interceptions and 3.1 tackles per game, and wins 4.5 ground duels a game (SofaScore). Ridiculously impressive stats for a player in his first Premier League (half) season with a change of coach.

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So who is there currently in the Championship for Spurs to look at? Well, Gabriel Sara at Norwich started every Championship game in the regular season, providing 13 goals and 12 assists, as well as 2 tackles and 4.8 duels won per game from a double pivot role (SofaScore). He could help address Spurs' midfield issues. The caveat is Norwich could be promoted via the play-offs, but they are the least fancied of the 4 competing sides and if they stay down, his price should not be out of reach.

Jacob Greaves had a very good campaign at the heart of the Hull City defense and is seen as a player with a lot of potential. With only two years left on his contract, he could be a player that Spurs enquire about.

Familiar name Kyle Walker-Peters has had an excellent season under Russell Martin at Southampton. A tactically versatile player, Walker-Peters has been used as a marauding high and wide right-back and as an inverted full-back on the other side of defense.

With only one year left on his remaining contract, if Southampton stays down, you would have to feel that the former Spurs full-back would be affordable. A cheap enough homegrown option that could cover both sides would be a smart piece of business.


So, in short: Buy from the Championship. Buy from the Championship before a team lower in the table does and you end up having to pay 2-3 times the original price. Have the foresight and cut the middle man. It's what the smart clubs do.