It was ex-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp who initially thrust young Steven Caulker into the White Hart Lane limelight three seasons ago now as he lined up alongside Kyle Naughton, Sebastian Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto in an experimental Lilywhites squad.
Bouncing back from this underwhelming appearance against Arsenal in the League Cup in September 2010, the defender has gone on and enjoyed quite a 2012 with an appearance at London 2012, a Premier League debut for Spurs and senior international recognition his new found fate.
It could have panned out so much differently for the 20-year-old who has since been on loan to Yeovil Town, Bristol City and Swansea City but battling back admirably after his rather difficult baptism, Caulker owes much of his success to these outfits that aided his first competitive steps in the game.
Caulker didn’t feature again in a Spurs match day squad until the early stages of the current campaign and he may have thought his big chance had gone, but for some steely determination.
The reborn Caulker appeared on the bench at home to West Bromwich Albion this term as a new-fangled, trusty deputy, with five days representing the time frame in which Caulker’s career switched to an ascendant path.
Joining Championship outfit Bristol City just five days after his initial debut in the Arsenal fixture, this is where Caulker’s stock began to rise markedly as his dominant 6’3” frame started to cut it against the best strikers in England’s second tier.
Claiming the accolade of Bristol City’s young player of the year award in 2010/11, his new found confidence was a secret no more as Premier League newcomers Swansea City thwarted the Robins attempts to resign him on loan for the 2011/12 campaign.
Overseeing the rapid rise of Caulker, then Bristol City boss Keith Millen said “We knew Tottenham were keen on getting Steven on loan in the Premier League.
“I always felt a Premier League club may come calling and it seems like Swansea have.”
At the end of a player’s career, they are likely to romanticise the thought of their early years where they roughed it amidst the nitty gritty of the competitive Football League divisions in order to enhance their glitsy Premier League prospects going forward.
Caulker is no different from David Beckham, Frank Lampard or Jermain Defoe who gained their first steps in what we could now call inferior settings with no disrespect intended for Preston North End, Swansea and Bournemouth.
We’ve witnessed modern day player development philosophies vary with Brendan Rodgers consistently selecting Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom for the Liverpool first team without the need of a loan move. This strategy is at odds with the ideology of managers such as Arsene Wenger who typically loans his younger talents out, posing the question of best practice.
Caulker has inspired young players everywhere suggesting the loan market is still the best place to learn your trade. With Jack Wilshere loaned to Bolton Wanderers and Tom Cleverley sent temporarily to Wigan Athletic in 2010/11, there is plenty of evidence that many of the English new breed are achieving success forged off the back of a spell down the divisional stakes.
Perhaps Caulker’s particular development could be utilised as a successful blueprint for fellow managers. The consecutive League One, Championship and Premier League loan spells seem incrementally intentional with the player learning in an environment which is more competitive year upon year.
Scoring his first Spurs goal against Manchester City this weekend, the moment provided the latest chapter of the aspiring Steven Caulker story.
This post has been sponsored by kitchen worktop provider – The Marble Group, who fitted a granite worktop for Caulker last season for his flat in North London. The company’s online portfolio and range can be viewed at www.themarblegroup.co.uk.