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Defender visits former school to highlight journey from local sessions to turning professional

Thu 21 March 2024, 19:02|Tottenham Hotspur

Young defender James Rowswell today (Thursday 21 March) returned to his old school in Bengeo, Hertfordshire to chart his rise through the Club’s Global Football Development programme to signing a professional contract.

James, born in Welwyn Garden City, is currently in his second full-time season with our Under-18s and recently signed his first professional contract with the Club. He was part of the squad that won the Under-17 Premier League Cup last season.

The 17-year-old defender has been part of the Club’s Player Development Programmes since the age of five, beginning at Haileybury College, before joining Development Centres at Stevenage and Epping, which are run by the Club for young players of all levels as alternative pathways to a professional career in football.

One of the afterschool sessions he attended around the time his talent was first identified was at Bengeo Primary School, and James celebrated the signing of his first contract by paying them and the coaches who supported him on the development programme a visit.

At the school – where our Women’s first team player Gracie Pearse was also once a pupil – James assisted with a football coaching session and took part in a Q&A with Year 6 students to offer inspiration and discuss his journey to becoming a professional footballer through the Club’s programmes. He also spent time addressing some of the Year 1 students.

Speaking at the school, James said: “It’s been a brilliant experience coming back here today, several years down the line. I remember these sessions when I was younger – the Club’s coaches would arrive and I would always try and impress them, trying my hardest to improve.

“What it shows is that there is a clear pathway for the kids of these ages, going through the Club’s Development Programmes to the elite stages or the Academy, and I hope they can see that journey.”

Sarah Potts, Deputy Headteacher at Bengeo Primary School, added: “James always had that drive and passion from a young age. I am so pleased he has become a professional footballer, but it is not surprising knowing his work ethic. It is really inspirational for these kids to see his journey and a pathway for them to also go on to be a professional.”

James’ Development Programmes timeline

• 2012-2015: Holiday Player Development Programmes at Wodson Park and Haileybury College.
• 2014: Bengeo Primary School, Afterschool Session with Football Development Programme.
• 2014: Ware Evening Soccer School (Player Development Programme).
• 2014: Stevenage Development Centre.
• 2015: Epping Development Centre.
• 2015: Training Centre (EDC).
• 2016: Shadow Squad U9-U11.
• 2016/17: Registered Academy Player U11.
• 2022: Signs full-time Scholarship.
• 2023/24: Signs professional contract.

Paul Griffiths, our Education and Football Development Centres Manager, said: “James absolutely encompasses what our Football Development Programme is about. He was on one of these programmes here at Bengeo Primary School about 10 years ago, but he has also been part of our wider programmes and has really lived every part of that journey with us, so to see him finally get that professional contract recently was amazing.

“Our Player Development Programmes spread far and wide across the globe, and it is all about helping every player to be the best they possibly can be. We have players of all abilities, and there are actually some players here at Bengeo who are on our programmes already, who are starting the same path as James, which hopefully can inspire the next person to follow his journey.”

The Tottenham Hotspur Global Football Development Programme works closely with both our Academy and Women’s Junior Talent Pathway to provide individual progression routes for players of all development levels.

Player development is at the heart of the Club and the Global Football Development team impacts around 6,500 players annually, as well as demonstrating year-on-year growth. Technical sessions are delivered by our FA and UEFA-qualified coaches who take inspiration from our Men’s and Women’s first team training methods to help develop every player who takes part in our programmes.