It has been a fairytale season so far for Tottenham Hotspur, with a young unit of promising footballers coming of age under Mauricio Pochettino and putting forward a title challenge.
The Argentine trainer has trusted a host of home-grown starlets throughout the campaign, with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose essential members of the first-team. This change in mentality has been welcomed by the White Hart Lane faithful, who had grown sick of the merry-go-round of foreign imports that lasted a season or two before being offloaded.
Pochettino is clearly building a long-term project, with these youngsters getting a chance to progress at the club and fight for silverware. Yet, despite the success stories, for some promising players it has been an underwhelming season.
While Nabil Bentaleb has been forced to largely watch on from the sidelines after being a key member of the team last season, two English starlets have also suffered.
Both Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard would have had ambitions of being regular starters for the north London side this season, but have had campaigns to forget.
Mason put in a strong performance and scored the winning goal against Sunderland back in September, getting injured in the process of netting. While he was on the sidelines, others have progressed and the 24-year-old has only started five Premier League games to date this season as a result. Given that he was selected for 29 league matches last season and was called up to the England squad also, Mason will now look back on 2015/16 and feel that he has taken steps back, not forward. With Euro 2016 on the horizon, it would be a major surprise if the Tottenham youth product was in Roy Hodgson’s contingent for the competition in France.
Pritchard was being spoken of as the next to follow in the footsteps of Kane and company by progressing through the Lilywhites’ ranks and making it into the first-team. A massively promising loan stint at Championship side Brentford last season and participation in the England U-21 set-up understandably had the Spurs fans excited about the diminutive winger’s potential to make an impact this term. However, injuries took their toll for Pritchard early in the campaign and, in truth, the promising 22-year-old has not been given a chance at White Hart Lane. Spurs have sent the attacking midfielder on loan to Premier League rivals West Brom, but first-team football continues to be a rare commodity for the youngster. With the likes of a much-improved Erik Lamela, Son Heung-min and Nacer Chadli all ahead of him in the fight for a spot on the right wing, something drastic seems necessary if Pritchard is to get a chance at Tottenham.
Both Pritchard and Mason clearly have the ability to play in the Premier League, but looking ahead the pair may well have to leave their boyhood club this summer if they are to get this opportunity on a regular basis.