Young central defender Leigh Mills certainly had an eventful year during 2004.
Leigh arrived at White Hart Lane last summer, when he made the move from Swindon Town to join our Academy ranks in July.
He had progressed through the youth system at the County Ground, having joined their School of Excellence at the tender age of nine. He spent seven years with The Robins and was on the verge of stepping up to their Reserve side, when an ankle ligament injury stopped him in his tracks in the final stages of the last campaign.
Leigh recovered to feature all the way through in the England Under-17s summer Nordic Championship tournament in Finland, captaining the side in the match with Norway that clinched third place, before his arrival at White Hart Lane.
The six foot, one inch, centre half then joined up with his new Spurs team-mates, lining up in Clive Allen’s pre-season friendly fixtures and scoring his first goal in our colours, in the Spurs XI victory over Harlow Town.
Leigh recalls: “I then played the first game of the season for the Reserves, the full 90 minutes in our goalless draw at Fulham.”
The 16-year-old switched back to Academy football, with a regular place in our Under-18s line-up, playing another full match for our Reserves against Derby County at the end of November in place of the injured Dean Richards.
“There has certainly been a lot going on,” confirms Leigh. “With about seven matches for England too, in between all the games for Spurs, it’s been good!
“Because of the quality of players ahead of me here, I have been pleased and surprised to play two and a bit games for the Reserves. It has been an added bonus to play at that level this term.
“The Under-18 matches have been going OK, it has been a fairly steady season, so I’m pleased with the term so far,” he explains. “I have just got to keep playing well and hopefully get a few more games before the end of the season for the Reserves.
“It is unbelievable playing at Reserve level,” Leigh reveals. “It is obviously a lot quicker and you don’t get as much time on the ball. The opponents are bigger and strong too, so it is a huge step up, but you have more experienced players around you to help you through each game.
“It is a learning curve,” he says. “You learn so much from the other players, seeing how they do certain things and how they adapt to situations during matches.”
Leigh is currently sidelined with an ankle problem, picked up in the F.A. Youth Cup third round game against Nottingham Forest, but is hopeful of being fit for selection for our trip to Anfield in the next round on Wednesday.
He has also been named in John Peacock’s England Under-17 squad for the Algarve Tournament, along with fellow Spurs goalkeeper David Button and defender Chris Riley, for their matches against Portugal, France and Norway at the end of this month.
“They are a great bunch of lads here and they really welcomed me in,” Leigh concludes. “It took a while to adjust, which I’m sure is normal, but I feel part of the team and everyone has helped me settle in well.”