Inside Lane: Which of Spurs’ young stars could step up to the first team next season?
Tottenham blogger Chris Miller runs the rule over Spurs’ academy players and discusses which of the club’s youngsters could be involved in Mauricio Pochettino’s first-team squad next campaign.
Spurs will have the tricky task of managing two elite-level competitions throughout next season, having qualified to play in the Champions League for the first time since 2010/11.
Of course, Mauricio Pochettino has had to contend with midweek fixtures for much of this campaign, as his team progressed to the last 16 in the Europa League.
He did this by regularly rotating some players - both of his full-backs, Mousa Dembele, his attacking band of three and occasionally Harry Kane.
However, it has been widely felt that the depth of the squad is what has stopped Spurs from being able to keep pace with title-winners Leicester City this year, and so how to supplement our terrific first 13 or 14 players will be the talk of the summer.
Promoting youth players could help fill some gaps. Aside from the obvious academy graduates - Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll - Pochettino used the club’s youth players somewhat sparingly this year; Nabil Bentaleb played 513 minutes across all competitions, Josh Onomah played 474, Harry Winks played 17 and Alex Pritchard played five before his injury and subsequent loan to West Bromwich Albion.
Meanwhile, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luke McGee and Kyle Walker-Peters all made the bench but did not actually get on the pitch.
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Onomah showed enough to know that he can hold his own, despite not getting chances in what is perhaps his best position as a No8 - although he has said he prefers the No10 role - while Winks has been training with the first team on and off since he was 16, and a proper chance cannot be far away.
Winks has been consistent for the Under-21s in a mixed season for that group, and it looks as though he is now getting little from those games.
Other stand-out performers in the Under-21s have been the aforementioned Walker-Peters, striker Shayon Harrison and, latterly, Marcus Edwards.
Edwards has been the subject of speculation as he is old enough to sign a professional contract but, as yet, has not. He has another year of his scholarship to go, though, so we do not need to worry too much just yet.
He has shown he is good enough to play Under-21 football, despite only being 17 years old and one of the smallest players in the academy, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses next year to Under-21 regular.
Walker-Peters is a right-back with outstanding promise. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in dribbling ability, pace and balance. It might be that he is sent out on loan to test his readiness, but he is a player that has a shot of breaking through to the first-team squad next season.
Harrison has scored goals at every level and, while he does not always add so much in general play, that is an eye-catching quality to have. It certainly caught the eye of Pochettino, who name-checked him a couple of times during the season - although, of course, that could simply have been down to the lack of striking options available to him.
The returning loanee quartet of Dominic Ball (Rangers), Grant Ward (Rotherham United), Alex Pritchard (West Brom) and DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland) will presumably be assessed in pre-season to determine whether they are ready for first-team integration, or will be sold or loaned again.
Ward has performed consistently for Rotherham, winning their club Young Player of the Year award, while Ball has won admirers amongst Rangers fans, particularly when he has played in defensive midfield.
I wonder whether his Eric Dier-esque conversion from centre-back to central midfield might have been a suggestion from Spurs, who may see him as a possible answer to our own lack of defensive midfield cover.
The final player to mention is 18-year-old centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was also mentioned by Pochettino in January when the Argentine declared he had no plans to sign a replacement for the injured Jan Vertonghen.
In an injury-disrupted season where his defensive partner has changed regularly, Carter-Vickers has seemingly stagnated a little. It is a real pity that the season has panned out as it has for him, as there is certainly a right-sided centre-back gap to fill in the first-team squad, with Federico Fazio clearly unwanted, and Eric Dier being the only natural cover for that role.
If he can impress in pre-season, then perhaps he can save the club a few quid in the transfer market.
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