The Olympic games aren’t something you would usually relate with royalty. As good as King Akabussi I sounds, it simply doesn’t stick. But for Spurs fans, it could offer a glimpse to the heir to the throne of their very own monarch.
With Steven Caulker set to feature for Stuart Pearce’s Team GB side at London 2012, the 20-year-old has the perfect platform to demonstrate his abilities to a wider audience. And with a new, recently signed four-year deal in the bag, the youngster has the chance to follow in the footsteps of White Hart Lane royalty in the shape of Ledley King.
Looking to compare another defender with King amounts to something resembling sacrilege to many Spurs fans. In fact, comparing younger players with esteemed club veterans usually tends to put an uneasy amount of pressure and expectation on the aforementioned player.
In the case of Steven Caulker though, the temptation feels slightly too much to resist. Seeing your club produce a young player of such quality always retains a sincere level of pride. But perhaps when the last real pure Spurs youth product to become a long-term fixture in the team was Ledley King, the anticipation over Caulker seems understandable. King made his debut in 1999. A successor has been long overdue.
So does Caulker fit the bill? The term ‘pure’ Spurs player seems relatively nonsensical in today’s game. Of course, short of playing for Arsenal, it doesn’t really matter where players come from. Where they are able to take you is more important. Even then, Emmanuel Adebayor’s past résumé has hardly seen him put in the corner.
But in Caulker’s case, he is perhaps as pure as can be. After being scouted by Spurs when playing for Hounslow Borough as a 15-year-old, the centre-back has risen through the youth ranks at White Hart Lane. The likes of Danny Rose may have made their debuts at Spurs, but they learnt their craft elsewhere.
Although Caulker may have been moulded at Tottenham, it has been his experiences out on loan that have projected him to his current standing. A lot of Spurs youngsters, or those from all clubs for that matter, have struggled when farmed out on loan; often playing a handful of games in and out of a struggling side. This has not been the case for Steven Caulker.
At the age of only 20, Caulker has made just over 100 professional appearances. His first loan spell saw him head to Yeovil Town in the summer of 2009. Not all youngsters take to the rigours of League One and a move to an alien town like a duck to water. Steven Caulker however, returned to Spurs at the end of the season having missed only one league game and clutching a player of the year trophy.
A step up to the Championship saw Caulker engage in an extremely fruitful 30-game spell at Bristol City which would have been more, was it not for a minor knee issue. Indeed, David James went as far as describing Caulker as one of their best players.
And in continuing with his gradual increase in competitive experience, Caulker packed his bags and headed for Swansea City at the beginning of last season. After impressing in League One and the Championship respectively, the challenge was to make a real impact in the Premier League. As you’ve come to expect with Caulker, the youngster didn’t disappoint.
Caulker made 26 starts for Swansea in the Premier League. Let’s not forget this wasn’t made for a relegation-dogged team that some, now foolishly, predicted. Swansea weren’t quite watertight, but they looked solid defensively as Caulker fitted seamlessly into their brand of keepball football.
As Brendan Rodgers had his team playing football from the back, Caulker showcased the magically elusive English trait of comfort in possession- something that doesn’t just tempt a comparison with Ledley King, but a trait that Andre Villas-Boas will be sure to crave in his new Spurs team. Compliment this with superb strength, awareness and a composure that defies his age and the 20-year-old has the full skill-set to survive at this level.
Team GB will offer Caulker an outstanding chance to showcase his talents. Some will point to the fact that his performances have already been there to see over the past 12 months. And although the Olympics aren’t at the top of tree in terms of footballing pedigree, the exposure that a successful Team GB run will receive will be overwhelming, however you feel about it.
That’s not to say that Andre Villas-Boas is going to hand him a starting place on a plate because he had a belting London 2012. But he can stake a claim and make people stand up and notice. Supporters are aware of him, but he has the chance to capture their imaginations. Team GB play an outlandishly talented Brazil side and technically astute Uruguay team in the preliminaries. If he can effectively marshal the two South American teams then he could head back to Spurs amongst a glittering of hyperbole.
Uttering Caulker’s name alongside that of the King seems typical of the sort of hype that the phrase ‘new Messi’ or ‘new Ronaldo’ affords; for some, all it does is add a weight of unnecessarily expectation. But we’ve seen already through the embryonic stages of Steven Caulker’s career that expectation doesn’t phase him. Don’t expect that to change this summer either.
Do you think Caulker is the heir to Ledley’s throne? Does he have a future in AVB’s Tottenham? Or are you sick of the endless comparisons? Tell me what you think on Twitter, follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views