Might these Spurs youngsters emulate Manchester United's 'Class of 92'?
In wake of Tottenham Hotspurs’ somewhat lacklustre performances in the league, despite some good results, questions will be asked of when the Lilywhites’ top academy prospects will see first team action in the coming season. Much has been made of one or two individual players – but the question has to be asked, can Spurs achieve a similar level of success through their youth academy that Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92’ achieved?
One of the things that worked so well in United’s favour was that – as well has having a set of immensely talented youngsters – most of the players thrown into the side had played together in the youth setup for several years. Their progress hadn’t been interrupted by loan spells elsewhere, where they may have had a new style of football forced upon them – consider how Dele Alli’s considerable talent could be undermined by a season with Tony Pulis.
Unfortunately, modern football does not typically allow such luxuries; the starlet Will Miller – who impressed in the opening game of the under-23 Premier League – has been loaned to Burton Albion, while Kyle Walker-Peters has been linked with a loan move this season. Whilst it is well known that Pochettino integrates his brightest academy stars into first team training for their development, as opposed to a loan spell elsewhere, Premier League experience may well be favoured over a year spent in the youth setup.
United were also blessed by the best manager in the recent times, if not history – Sir Alex Ferguson did, after all, win the Premier League with Johnny Evans and Phil Jones as an established defensive pairing. Ferguson’s ability to turn ordinary players into good ones, and excellent ones into history-makers, cannot be undermined in this regard. All the potential in the world could have been wasted had Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and the Neville’s been under an incompetent manager – or worse, managers.
Not only was Ferguson brilliantly aware of the youngsters’ talents, and had complete faith in their ability, but his long-term-ism led to success that saw him revered by both fanbase and board alike – which ultimately kept him in the job for so long. Whilst Pochettino’s job looks secure right now, all it takes is a run of bad results for questions to start being asked – especially if there’s a league position at the end of the season that’s somewhat underwhelming. So, it is absolutely imperative that the Argentine stays at the helm for the long term – especially if these young players are to realise their potential.
However, for those that do make it – like Onomah, Edwards and the American centre-half Cameron Carter-Vickers – progression to the first team team is a very real possibility. Youngsters like Harry Winks have already displaced older players like Tom Carroll in the pecking order, while Josh Onomah saw first-team minutes last season. The pathway to the first team at Spurs is very clear: if Pochettino thinks you’re good enough, then you’re old enough, and on multiple occasions last season he brought on an academy graduate in the remaining minutes of a big game – Josh Onomah away at Arsenal and Tom Carroll away at Manchester City, to name just two.
This obviously isn’t to say that the next starting eleven should comprise purely of academy players. Young players are not the answer to everything; even promising youngsters won’t necessarily go on to be huge stars – Nabil Bentaleb illustrates this. However, there certainly are very talented youngsters at Spurs, and ones who will come to be great additions to the first team. Josh Onomah, Marcus Edwards, Kyle Walker-Peters and Cameron Carter-Vickers seem destined for Premier League football, and if their development continues in the way the analysts and coaches at Hotspur Way predict, then who knows? Couple the academy players with astute transfer purchases, and the successes of the most famous English side of the Premier League era may yet be emulated by a group of young, English players under the leadership of Mauricio Pochettino.
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