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Talking Shop

Posted on 10 August 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

In his first Talking Shop column of the new campaign, our director of football David Pleat looks to the future and discusses the prospects of our Academy side and young players ahead of the new season.

Arsenal have won the FA Youth Cup twice in recent years with Ashley Cole an obvious product of their system, West Ham have won it with a team containing Michael Carrick and Joe Cole.

At Tottenham I expect better results this time around in the Youth Cup, having had disappointing results in the last two seasons. Last year was better than the previous year, this year I expect better again.

We’ve got a stronger squad now, having 13 trainees in the younger group and 15 in the under-19s. The good thing about the older batch, who will play under-19 Academy football, is that most are eligible to play under-18 Youth Cup games.

The Youth Cup is a tournament we haven’t reached the last four in several seasons now. In fact, I think the last time we had a successful season was around 1992-93 when we played Manchester United in the final. Since that time, many of the United boys graduated to become first team players, whereas only Stephen Carr progressed from the Tottenham group.

So although we haven’t done well in the Youth Cup over the past two or three years, we are still developing players. Ledley King and Alton Thelwell are the latest, and Luke Young and Stephen Clemence have come through the system and played regular first team football. Carr’s progress is there for all to see.

We’ve now got a better quality of boy, a result of becoming more aggressive with the type of signings we were getting. The standard at the moment of the first year intake looks promising.

It would be wrong of me to name future stars, but we’ve got two boys who play for England schoolboys, and a couple who play at a similar level for Ireland.

It will be about their ability, plus opportunity.

Further up the age-scale, the lovely thing about the start of this season is the continued form of the boys who were bought here. Ferguson, Davies, Etherington, Doherty and Gardner continue to progress and develop. At present, Gardner is still injured from his last first team outing against Manchester United

In this pre-season, Doherty, Davies and Etherington have all been involved with Glenn's senior side.

Hopefully these boys will challenge. We’ve always said we’re seeking a strong base here - those that came in last year will be better for the experience, helping to give us a greater depth. And so far the pre-season friendlies have been quite interesting with some positive results.

A surprise to many this summer was the departure of Luke Young. Glenn looked at his options and felt that Luke might not get the games he deserves and might become a victim of his versatility.

We have Doherty, Gardner, King and Thelwell sitting in the wings, four very promising ones who have all done well in their own way when they have gone in the side. With the experience we hope to bring in and the system we hope to play, it could well have been that Luke would have become a cover player.

There was an opportunity to sell for what we felt in the end was a fair price as defenders go. Of course, Luke wanted to play at right back, and he had that very clearly in his mind. Probably Luke in a back-four will be quite effective for Charlton.

Three seasons ago, Luke was being discussed as a possibility for being released. His brother, Neil, already had a similar experience in going from Tottenham to Bournemouth. It has been to Luke’s great credit that he forced his way into the first team picture and played so consistently.

I remember clearly saying to Luke that he didn’t want to get into a position of drifting in the reserves at 21 or 22. First team football is everything; he didn’t want to be a victim of his situation.

Luke is a terrific lad and we wish him every success.

Neil went and has done very well at Bournemouth, he was sold along with a player called Steve Robinson, who has since moved on to Preston with Tottenham receiving a share of the profits.

A similar windfall occurred for the club this summer with the sale of Peter Crouch from QPR to Portsmouth. Crouch fetched for the Academy, and future development of players, half a million pounds with his original fee and sell-on monies. I see this as sensible business for a lad who had limited reserve team opportunities.

The sales of Crouch, Young and Walker is a clear testimony to our continued eye on youth development. Earlier sales of Rory Allen, Mark Gower and Peter Gain also helped finance our football development.

Sol Campbell also came through the ranks, but he insisted on a Bosman transfer of us realising his value in the transfer market.

It is important that youngsters who, indirectly, cost the club very little compared to buying players, come through the system. If they don’t achieve, or if they achieve and then can be sacrificed, it keeps the flow of money coming in and also keeps the flow of games for others. It’s all part of our development.