There is a rare beast in North London, a creature seen so scarcely its very existence has been questioned. Its name is the Tottenham Hotspur home-grown player. First team sightings are so few they can be counted on the fingers of one hand in recent years.
We are not talking here about players who fit the new home-grown criteria set to be introduced for the next premiership season, players like Dawson, Huddlestone and Lennon for example. We are talking about products of the Academy, the Spurs youth setup, brought in as youngsters and turned into top quality, valuable players.
According to the Spurs website, their ethos is: ‘to recruit the best potential which can be developed by the best coaches, working in the best facilities..’ but the results have been pitiful. They currently have Ledley King and Peter Crouch (even though the latter failed to make an appearance for the club as a youngster) representing the academy, before that we are harking back to such club legends as Luke Young, Dean Marney and Jamie O’Hara. There is no haul here, no golden era, not even close to a steady trickle.
The failure of youth team players to make it into the first team has been a problem for the past 20 years, and whilst the current crop of youth players look highly promising, it will be interesting to see how many actually make it.
During Tottenham’s many years of disappointment, Arsenal, West Ham, Manchester City and Manchester United have all nurtured top premiership talents. The recent approach at Spurs lodge has been to buy this young talent, developed elsewhere, before it gets too expensive. Whilst this policy has proved successful with the likes of Huddlestone, Lennon and even Bale, it is an acknowledgement of the failure of the club’s own development programme and also a nod to the need for instant success at this level.
However, with the need for a new stadium looming, and the prospect of a severe belt tightening with it. The financial need of developing at least some home-grown talent will become apparent. Buying young players from other more successful academies to cover up the inadequacies of the youth programme is a short-term solution and an unsustainable one.
Harry Redknapp’s involvement at West Ham during the period in the 90’s that saw them bring through, Ferdinand, Cole, Lampard, Carrick and Defoe should encourage as surely he understands the importance of the youth system, but Spurs have a lot of catching up to do.