A trip down memory lane at the Tottenham Hotspur academy over the past ten years does not make particularly good reading for those of a lilywhite persuasion. Academy director John McDermott may be excited about Tottenham’s current academy crop Ryan Mason, Jonathan Obika, Andros Townsend, John Bostock, Sam Cox and Dean Parrett, but until they cut the mustard in the first team, Tottenham fans will fear the worse. Players to have come out of the Tottenham academy worthy of note since 2000 probably amounts to Jamie O’Hara and Dean Marney, neither of which have actually cut the mustard at White Hart Lane. With Tottenham reportedly interested in taking Manchester City’s Youth Academy director Jim Cassell, or even former Leeds United and Nottingham Forest youth director Paul Hart, Harry Redknapp has obviously identified a weakness at the club that most fans have been aware of for some time.
Cassell has been praised for his work at Manchester City, after the club witnessed the emergence of a number of bright young talents. For instance, recent additions to the Manchester City first team squad from the club’s academy include Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Joey Barton, Nedum Onuoha and Daniel Sturridge. Some of these players have since departed (and in some cases returned) but there is no doubt that compared with Manchester City, the Tottenham academy conveyer belt appears to have broken down. Even at clubs such as Manchester United, where there has been a recent dearth of talent compared with the days of Scholes, Beckham, Butt and the Neville brothers, the club still sees players such as Evans, Gibson and Welbeck making first team appearances in recent times. However, at Tottenham there has been no such glut of talent, even over the past twenty years. This is a problem Tottenham must address, especially as with a move to a new stadium on the horizon, Spurs cannot maintain spending huge transfer fees for every position.
Tottenham’s problem, perhaps similar to that at Chelsea, is that the club is desperate for instant success. The club has always had money, and rather than put in the hard work to produce players that will benefit the club in the long term, Tottenham have opted to buy them for inflated prices over the years. In recent memory, various clubs have at least at some stage enjoyed a glut of top rate players emerging from their academies. At West Ham, players such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick have all gone on to become top players. At Leeds United, Jonathan Woodgate, Ian Harte, Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and Aaron Lennon all represent evidence of a well run academy. Arsenal are seeing the rewards of Arsene Wenger’s work with the youth set-up now, with his scouting network bringing in some of Europe’s brightest talent before they are even 16.
At Tottenham over the past twenty years, the only players of note that have come through the Tottenham system to become Premier League players are Sol Campbell, Ledley King, Stephen Clemence, Stephen Carr, Luke Young, Dean Marney and Jamie O’Hara. Further, the majority of these players made their debuts before the year 2000. Where are Tottenham’s academy products? Some names may be missing from this list that have gone on to have successful careers, but over the past twenty years, the only England international’s Tottenham have produced are Ledley King and Sol Campbell.
Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp appear to be attempting to address this situation by embarking upon a £30m training facility at Bulls Cross, Enfield. The training complex will be state of the art, and allow Tottenham to compete with Arsenal’s complex in Hertfordshire, which is widely regarded as the best in the Premier League. Currently, the academy trains either at the Tottenham lodge in the evenings, or at other specified facility at weekends. However, Bulls Cross will give the academy a true home, and will encourage youngsters to join the club, boasting some of the best facilities in the country.
With the new stadium potentially costing Tottenham hundreds of millions, investment in the academy could save the club money in the future. It is vital Tottenham begin attracting the countries best young players, and preparing them for the first team. Otherwise, the club will continue to lag behind the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa, West Ham, Arsenal and Manchester United in terms of youth development, which one day soon may cost the club dearly. If Paul Hart or Jim Cassell are not hired, then current academy director John McDermott must start producing talent sooner rather than later.