Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and even the Arse all have starboys, so where are Tottenham’s?
It’s a question asked by rival fans across the board, Spurs do have a respectful history of bringing through talent. Players as recently as the last decade such as Gareth Bale, Danny Rose, Tom Huddlestone, Andros Townsend, Nabil Bentaleb, Josh Onomah, Marcus Edwards, Kyle Walker, Harry Winks, Ryan Fredericks, Dele, Harry Kane, Kyle Walker-Peters who have gone on to play at the top level through being nurtured at a young age or brought through the academy.
Honourable mentions: Jake Livermore, Kyle Naughton, Steven Caulker, Adam Smith, Ryan Mason (ret.), DeAndre Yedlin, Tom Carroll, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Alex Pritchard.
More recently known young players who came up under Mauricio Pochettino such as Walker, Dele and Kane have aged out of ‘Starboy’ criteria or have since left the club, so it now begs the question, where are the new crop?
Firstly we have…
”He marked Cristiano Ronaldo, make him known”. – Jose Mourinho
Jose referring to the time Spurs played Juventus in the pre-season going into the 19/20 season when Tanganga and co. led us to winning the prestigious Audi Cup…
Japhet is 21 years old standing at just over 6ft which can be seen as fairly short for a centre back by trade, but on the eye test he is still adept in the air and blessed with great pace while still having great instincts for defending being very comfortable in 1v1 situations and has quickly built up a rep for loving a goal line clearance shown below on his debut v Liverpool and again v Southampton.
It was against Liverpool on January 11th 2020 when Jose Mourinho gave him his baptism of fire on the right of a back 3 to line him up directly against Sadio Mane and he put in a Man of the Match performance while pocketing him and showing he had the confidence to not only impose himself defensively but show the confidence to bring the ball out of defence on several occasions as a proficient dribbler with the ball too.
Another big string to his bow is his versatility and intelligence to be able play anywhere across the defensive line having made 3 starts at right Back in the Premier League and 2 starts at left back, one of those left back appearances coming in a 2-0 win vs City and managed to tame an in-form Riyad Mahrez in the process.
On the day of writing Tanganga has made 20 total competitive appearances for Spurs, in his breakout 19/20 season he averaged an impressive 2.4 tackles per game, 1.8 interceptions, 3.6 clearances and 2 dribbles per game but his 20/21 season has been blighted by back to back thigh injuries and more recently a shoulder injury which has hindered Spurs as much as it has Japhet as we’re in desperate need for a defender of Japhet’s ilk to step up while Davinson Sanchez has been underperforming and Toby Alderweireld on a steady decline, he would inject much needed pace into a slow backline which has struggled to hold a high line whatsoever, having signed a 5-year deal last July and under the tutelage of Ledley King who is now on the Coaching Staff I have no doubts once Japhet can overcome his injuries he can make a significant impact on a defence which desperately needs him.
”I see this kid being one day a future Captain here by his character, by his Personality”. – Jose Mourinho
Again high praise from Mourinho who tips the quiet and unassuming 20yo to become a very important player for the future, during the 20/21 season he has been on loan at Norwich, at the time of writing he has started every game they have played in The Championship accumulating 25 Appearances and 2187 total minutes, only Max Aarons is has more minutes (2250).
Norwich currently sit 7 points ahead on top of The Championship and Skipp currently has 0 Goals and 0 Assists which begs the question towards players of his profile asking ‘So, what excatly does he do?’, During the 19/20 season Norwich were known for leaking goals all over the gaff and finished rock bottom of the Premier League with a hideous Goal Difference of -49 thus making this an issue which needed to be resolved if they were to gain immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
Operating as Norwich’s deepest Midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 he acts as a facilitator to the slightly more attack minded Kenny McLean and other attacking Midfielder’s Mario Vrancic and Emi Buendia, averaging 2.3 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per 90 with a tackle success rate of 77%, as well as a player who enjoys the defensive side of the game he loves looking after the ball too. With 1272 passes completed out of 1439 attempted (88% success) the assumption would be he keeps it simple and sideways with 5 yard passes but also averages 2.5 long balls per 90 so he’s open to switching up when needed.
”Skippy’s got experience beyond his years really, he looks like he’s played at the top level for 10 or 15 years, it’s hard to think that he’s still so young” – Grant Hanley
The Norwich captain waxing lyrical about Skipp who on the eye test is even more impressive, especially his awareness. On the eye test he looks to be a very good/quick thinker, watching him you can see the cogs turning when he’s on the ball, where are my team mates?, where am I being pressed from?, Do I faint?, Do I pass short or long?, Do I dribble?. He tends to always make the right decision thus makes an affective controller and shield in Norwich’s midfield. Even though statistically he only manages 0.5 dribbles per game this is down to his maturity and his discipline but make no mistake, if Skipp feels like its necessary he is more than comfortable turning out of tight spaces from deep and carrying the ball to get his team up the pitch, its not just myself and Grant Hanley that rate him either…
With Sissoko now 31 and being limited on the ball I would imagine Skipp plays an important role for Spurs next season potentially in that ‘Sissoko role’ especially us being right on the limit of our homegrown quota for players.
”I believe he can perfectly play for Spurs and has still got a huge career ahead and room for improvement.” – Slavisa Jokanovic
With Real Madrid able to re-sign Sergio Reguilon back in the Summer of 2021 or 2022 with the clause they inserted for a fee of €45m euros, with each passing impressive performance from Sergio and Marcelo well into the back end of his career you wouldn’t rule out Madrid taking up that option and then what for Spurs? back to gentle Ben Davies?
Ryan is probably still best known by many as the raw left-sided 17yo forward who scored 15 goals for the Fulham side which got promoted from the Championship in the 17/18 season, then off the back off a disappointing 18/19 season which saw Sessegon still do relatively well for a forward who was still really raw in a poor Fulham side (2 Goals 6 Assists) Spurs made the decision to drop £25m on him with the plan from Spurs and Ryan himself to make a Danny Rose esc transition to develop into an attack minded left back.
Once signed on the last day of the Summer transfer window going into 19/20 it was clear he would miss a sizeable chunk of the season of the season with a hamstring injury, this coupled with a change in Manager he never properly caught up only making 12 appearances so his first season would have go down as a bedding in season, we move.
Fast forward to 20/21 and it was decided that Sessegon would go out on loan to get some first team football at a team that is willing to play him at left back, or at least wing-back. Despite interest heavy interest from Celtic and Brighton it would be Hoffenheim that would decide to take him on. While being used sparingly at first at wing back in Hoffenheim’s traditional building with a 3 at the back system towards the end of November Hoffenheim reverted to a 4 at the back with a diamond midfield shape which saw Sessegon begin to blossom as a more traditional left-back but with the license to get forward and be solely responsible for providing the width on their left side.
Due to Hoffenheim’s diamond in midfield Sessegon can often be put in 2v1 situations as seen above in the first picture, its true to stereotypical Bundesliga defending, just vibes. Sessegon while still young and enthusiastic still has the athleticism to get up and down the left flank at will and from 11 Bundesliga appearances at the time of writing he averages 1.9 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per game which is impressive when you compare it to 1.4 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 0.7 clearances per game from Alphonso Davies from 10 appearances. It could be argued that Davies has less to do defensively playing for Bayern, focusing on the attacking side more but Sessegon having played only one game more has 2 goals and 2 assists to his name (his first assist coming in the image above on the right) compared Davies who has 0 and 0 as it stands so, the levels are promising.
Sessegon does still need to improve, to play left back in the Premier League he’ll need to develop all aspects of his game defensively, aerially and physically while continuing to be a threat in attacking phases but hopes are high for him still being 20yo, Sergio Reguilon (23) showed what Spurs were badly missing in terms of having a dynamic left back but if it is the case Sergio does end up back at R. Madrid then we are still in good hands.
”Watched Alfie for a couple of years and he’s top class” – Jamie Carragher
When signed as a 15 year-old for approx £300,000 from Wigan Athletic amidst their financial troubles in the summer just gone I’ve never seen a fanbase so up tight about a signing which is clearly for the future. ”Where’s the ambition?”, ”typical tight ass Levy”, ”where are the real signings?!” opinions vented by many fans at the time but it was a great opportunity pounced on by Spurs.
Released from Liverpool’s academy at 11 years old then swiftly picked up by Wigan, were he played with Jamie Carragher’s son he turned his game from being a technically gifted striker to being an attack minded midfielder who can play as an 8 or a 10 with a keen eye for a final third pass and being a goal threat.
He’s been highly thought of throughout his career, Devine started playing u18 Football at 14 then playing for the u23’s at 15 he also leads by example for England representing the u16 team at the SportChain Tournament in Spain. The Tournament was eventually won by the host Nation but Devine’s starring performances saw him win the player of the tournament while being one of the youngest players there.
This season Alfie has been key figure for both Spurs’ U18 and U23 squads particularly impressing in an U23 game v Chelsea. He looked head and shoulders above everyone in his midfield with him and Valentino Livramento of Chelsea being the best players on the pitch and he would go on to get sent off in the second half for a bad tackle on Danny Drinkwater, without endorsing a 2 foot challenge like that he does have that nastiness you need to make it to the top and it would appear Mourinho agrees. He’s recently made his debut for the first-team in the FA Cup v Marine off the bench and displayed very tidy technique, maturity and confidence, he doesn’t seem phased about being in tight spaces at all. He even scored shortly after coming on and created key chance for Vinicuis who should of got him an assist.
It’s fair to say the Club will be keeping a keen eye on the now 16 year old as will the guys at Touchline Hotspur so neutral fans across the board reading this, invest your stocks now.
”For an 18-year-old player to make his full league debut he was excellent. He showed what great intelligence he’s got, he’s got really good vision. His link play was good. I’d like for him to have got a little bit higher.” – Gary Rowett
Another player signed at 15, now 18, a 6 ft 1 striker and very much in the modern mould of being able to lead the line by himself while also being very comfortable playing as a second striker or a 10.
On the eye test Troy possesses good pace and dribbling, strength, great awareness and technique to drop deeper and get assists can finish well with either foot and has a cheeky set-piece in his locker too.
His goal record u18’s in the 18/19 season was scary, he scored 14 goals in 9 games and picked up 3 assists on the way before heading into a disruptive 19/20 season which saw him still pick up 9 goals in 6 games including 6 goals in 4 UEFA youth league games. He made his full Irish debut v New Zealand on the 14th Nov 19′ managed to record an assist and has 4 goals in 5 appearances for their U21’s. Off the back of this Troy signed a new contract shortly after his 18th birthday committing to the club til 2023 amidst interest from Bayern and Dortmund, confirming he is very highly thought of with Spurs and Ireland.
Starting the 20/21 season it was decided that Troy would follow on Harry Kane’s footsteps and go to Championship side Millwall on-loan but an injury on debut heavily disrupted his start at The Den, he’s now made 11 appearances without registering a goal yet so its been a great test of adversity for Troy who will be relieved to now be injury free and at least playing first team football. It was slightly concerning that he was picking up injuries cause as some Spurs fans will remember in the past we had another Irish prodigy roaring through the youth ranks by the name of Terry Dixon who’s career was ended early by injuries and it was startling to look like a case of Deja Vu.
Is Important to remember when Harry Kane went had spells on loan to Millwall, Leicester and Norwich he wasn’t exactly tearing up trees so with more experience and staying injury free Troy can come back and fight for a spot with our next starboy coming up next…
“I asked my football director and I asked the academy director and they contacted all the coaches. Who deserves?” – Jose Mourinho
Now admittedly I struggled for a quote on this one as this has been Dane’s breakout season but it does reflect how highly he’s thought of at the academy. Signed as a 6 year old he’s been developing in the academy as a striker for a hot minute. Still only 16 he’s got that potent product when it comes to scoring.
A knee injury last season stemmed much of his progress but this season he’s shown great instincts in the box for his age, clinical finishing with either foot and possesses good pace, technique and skill to work space and chances for himself. His goal record this season currently stands at 20 Goals in 15 appearances including 5 goals in an FA youth cup game vs Newport County which saw Spurs go 2-0 down but Dane took the game by the scruff of the neck to see us go on to win 6-2. Cold.
He also impressed for the U23’s v Chelsea recently in the same game Devine got sent off , showcasing his aerial ability scoring a tidy header against Petr Cech.
As per the Mourinho quote above he was recommended by the youth coaches for Dane to potentially get some minutes after being asked who could feature in the squad for our home game vs Ludogorets, he did eventually come off the bench in a relatively impressive 8 minute cameo where he got in behind to cut it back for a good chance and went through on goal after being played through by Winks but had his effort saved. Still only 16 there’s much more to come from Dane who with Parrott will take inspiration from Harry Kane coming through to see who’ll become the next forward to come up.
So there they are, Tottenham’s starboy’s. With the currently financial issues surrounding all Football clubs right now especially with Spurs going to the Bank of England, cap in hand borrowing £175m following COVID-19 and Spurs having issues meeting their homegrown quota it is imperative more than ever that we utilise our academy as much as possible and given the current crop of players coming up Tottenham are in as strong as a position as any of the elite.
With that i’m going to leave you readers with a credit roll in the form of some honourable mentions while listening to the anthem of the article itself…
Dennis Cirkin – Left Back
Harvey White – Central Midfielder
Joe Rodon – Centre Back
Jack Clarke – Winger
Malachi Fagon-Walcott – Central Defender
Juan Foyth – Centre Back