players lost on the way to 
submitting the teamsheet

19.6.2003

I have always been bemused by Spurs Youth Policy and the selling of potentially good players, a youth system is not just there to generate income for example Crewe, it is there to produce cheap effective first-team players or at least players to pressure the first-team for their places. If Spurs produced and kept 25% of the number of players and (quality) that Manchester United and Liverpool produce then there would be no perceived problem.

With that in mind, I have compiled a list from the 90ís of wasted talent ...

Quinton Fortune

He seemed to be a free-scoring midfielder in the Spurs Reserve and youth teams, great things were expected, but during the Sugar-Venables saga he disappeared then re-appeared at Atletico Madrid before joining United. Obviously a great talent and another Barmby who has never quite reached is potential, though Barmby did make our first-team.

Neale Fenn

Though not exactly setting the world alight since he has left the Lane, I remember him coming on for us as a substitute against Manchester United who could not cope with his pace and skill. He was at Peterborough last time I looked, but that is my memory of Fenn seeing the United defence chasing shadows.

Paul McVeigh

I have a friend who is a Norwich fan who rates McVeigh above Bellamy and Keith OíNeill, neither player hated at Carrow Road as the fans still have fond memories of them but I was always impressed when I saw him play at wither Premier or Nationwide Levels.

Darren Caskey

This has always confused me.  Ray Parlour who plays for some team who got kicked out of Woolwich came through roughly at the same time as Caskey.  As a result they were often compared. He was captain of the successful England youth or under twenty sides (cannot actually remember), I think he played quite a high number of games in his first season as there was an injury crisis (which puts it at one of the last fourteen seasons then - injury cynical Ed).  I do remember him getting booked quite often and having injury problems often.  

He had though shown his talents in the Nationwide Second division at Reading scoring about twenty goals in one season with some Beckham-like free kicks. He was the Reading captain and was bought by the Biscuitmen for no small amount after a loan spell with Watford. There were obviously problems between Caskey and Alan Pardew - either he did not fit into plans tactically or there were other problems and he left on Bosman or swap deal, Iím not sure, with the less able Andy Hughes going in the opposite direction from Notts County.  

Caskey in my opinion was a great talent that has passed the club by and if you look what followed with Dozzell, Saib, Sherwood and Toda it was a big mistake.

David Beckham

This was once a player who has probably worn a Spurs shirt when he was at the clubs school of excellence at the age of around 14, does anyone know what happened to him since? Last seen playing at Hackney Marshes said one.

Ian Walker

Many a time when Walker was nervous he used to start playing with his hair (with shouts of get your hair cut from the stands) but with the benefit of hindsight he doesnít look that bad a player at all. Our two present goalkeepers only seem to maintain their reputation by being picked at international level by second world football nations every so often. One of those players is over-weight and had a damaged elbow which he has been playing with this season (explains a bit). I think Walker has many years still left in him and was picked in an England squad recently. He seems to have the problem that he can think a bit like David James and starts to panic. 

Nick Barmby

Obviously starting his career at such a young age he never had the chance to study geography at A-Level and I think that he will never get the chance again, stating that he wanted to move up north for family reasons or some usual rubbish had since moved further and further south, Middlesbrough, Everton/Liverpool and now Dirty Leeds a move to Birmingham, then Northampton and Luton may result in him returning to the Lane by his injury-prone peak at the age of 36 on a free and a replica of the Angel of the North (to make him feel at home). He has done OK, but nothing compared to what was expected of him in the early 90s. 

Vinny Sideways

The hard-man of Spanish football once of Bethnal Green always did like getting the yellow card but no-one would ever call him a hard-man. I think everyone can remember how he got his nickname and the loud groans from the crowd with it, a forward would be making a run and Vinny decided that David Tuttle was a much better ball player and would pass it to him. Samways was undoubtedly in my opinion a skilful player even though he had his fans, he would never become a favourite and some fans got on his back.

He has done well for himself are a good few seasons at Las Palmas (spelt wrong) he joined Sevilla which did not work out for him and he spent a few games playing for Walsall last season before trying to sort out his career in Spain for this season.

Scott Houghton

I remember staring at the newspaper looking at a the results it said Spurs 4 Luton 2 (at least I think it was Luton) with Lineker scoring two I thought fair enough but who is the Houghton? He has got two as well, at that age I think I must have decided he was a good as Lineker. Shoot or Match produced a double page poster of him too, so I thought he must be good and the poster went up along side Mabbutt and  Lineker. The new Bobby Charlton was someone he was probably likened to and with that he has fizzled out to playing lower-league and non-league footy.

Andy Turner

The Irish Ryan Giggs (I think I remember Alan Moore at Middlesbrough was named this as well) was always spoken about highly and everyone was talking about him but he never seemed to make his breakthrough. There must have a lot of potential talent there (there was so much talk) but it never managed to show itself in the first-team there is no smoke without fire. I think he went to Pompey and has gone off elsewhere but didnít do a Rory Allen and is still playing.

Espen Baardsen

I know a Watford fan who was still undecided about Espen, at Spurs he looked good a times according to some but I only really saw him play one full game in a friendly which he did well.

John Hendry

I think he joined from Dundee, he seemed to score every time he played the Spurs team at the time often played 4-5-1 but I could never understand why they could not have both him and Lineker in the same side. 

Steven Slade

Watching him play he seemed to look like Ronaldo but didnít quite have the same skill. He looked quite good when I watched him play against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park (a game that saw a Ruel Fox Header) . He left for QPR when they were in decline which cannot be good for a young player trying to find his niche and faded and went into higher non-league.

Is this situation going to improve with Ben Bowditch , Dean Marney , Ronnie Henry, Jonathan Blondel, Jamie Slabber, Stephen Kelly and Jonnie Jackson  all players who have been lauded in parts disappearing. Is it going to be worth either investing in youth either via the David Pleat technique or even fielding a youth team.

Having watched the reserves play couple of times a Stevenage this season it nice the way Calderwood and Hoddle have an agreement as to how they will approach the game ... Ineptly.  

Two players have only caught the eye one was Galbraith who was being played on the left wing, but only seemed a bit player (a bit like Etherington) and Jonnie Jackson, who, with Ziege with all his problems, this season looked the best replacement for him at the club.  He had skill, determination, can tackle (unlike Ziege at times).  I still to this day donít know why he was not being picked. Jonnie was playing well for Swindon on loan and I think he went out to Colchester as well (who could not stop winning at the time).

Ledley King is the only player who has come through the youth system, but has not been consistent in recent seasons, any other young players to come through have been bought - Davies, Gardner, Etherington, Blondel with his nine mins last season.  

Is it worth the club keeping with youth system waiting for another Hoddle or Scumball?

David Masters

A riposte to David's article comes from someone who doesn't believe that there 
has been a stream of talented youngsters coming off the Spurs Youth conveyor belt.

 

were they really that good ??

26.6.2003

 

I feel compelled to argue the case for the defence with regards to Tottenhamís youth policy over the years having read Mr. Mastersí recent article.  While I agree that perhaps the youth system should be producing better players, to suggest that the ones that have been let go have been sorely missed, save a few obvious examples, is not entirely true.  The majority of the fringe players on the list have not gone on to be anything like a success.  

When players like Andy Turner and Scott Houghton are mentioned, I canít help but think that if theyíre not good enough for Dagenham and Redbridge or Rotherham, what use are they going to be to Spurs ?  The difference in quality between the lower divisions and the Premiership is vast, and if they donít shine lower down the leagues, they wouldnít have a chance at Tottenham.  Quinton Fortune is the only player on the list I would honestly say we let go and would possibly have reason to regret it.  Ian Walker left, but we got ten years out of him and a decent price from Leicester, and I donít remember him being held with such affection when he was between the sticks at White Hart Lane.  You can say the same of Vinny Samways.  £2 million from Everton was an absolute bargain, bearing in mind we all knew he was rubbish !  And as for Nick Barmby, he wanted to go, and we got a very high price for a player who, like you say, has never really fulfilled his potential.  Thinking of players who really slipped through our net, Graeme Souness and Des Walker spring to mind, although there were probably decent reasons behind their departures which we will never know.

I also feel itís unfair to compare our youth system with that of Manchester Unitedís.  Firstly, they are recognised as being ten years ahead of the rest of the country with regards to their academy and youth coaching systems.  Secondly, they have been incredibly lucky Ė thereís no way you can expect five internationals to come through from one youth team.  Itís pretty fortunate if you get one.  And thirdly, theyíre Manchester United, and like it or loath it, everyone wants to play for them.

I do think the Spurs youth system should be producing more, but I think David Pleat is getting it right.  Topping up what we already have by buying young talent from the Nationwide will only increase competition in the reserves and the youth team.  This is the essence of my point.  While I like to think I really know my football and can see talent in a kid, I have to admit Iím no expert.  Yes, I pay my money and watch every week, but I donít see the players every day, in training or off the pitch.  So I feel you just have to trust the judgement of whoever is in charge at the time, someone who probably has had a lifetime surrounded by professional footballers and knows his stuff (apart from Christian Gross, obviously).  If they donít rate a player, and they feel they can get a good price from someone willing to pay for potential that may not exist, I canít argue with them for selling.  If we had let S.Cumball or Steve Carr go at 19 for £500,000 apiece, then you really would have reason to grumble.  I honestly believe that if weíve got a really good player, we will hold onto him for as long as possible, and that has and always will be the case.  The ones we let go were just not that good .

John Nicholson, Park Lane

 

26.6.2003

There are problems with young players that go back a long way, in my experience.  Some look like world beaters at a young age, but then something happens, with them going off the straight and narrow, losing their focus on the way. 

Picking players who will go on to be big stars is a difficult thing.  I know from a very low level of experience that you can't always pick a winner in the youth players, but that is what makes youth staff worth their weight in gold.  As John says above, letting players go at an early age can be pounds foolish.  Finding a gem can make you look penny wise.

There will be more and more of players being bought in ... especially at youth level.  We have done it already with Owen Price and Michael Malcolm and they are both developing well within the youth set-up at the club.  The youngster Scott Thyer, who has impressed in Wales Schoolboy matched is the next to be brought in at 15.  The club has a good reputation for developing young players and this can only benefit the upper echelons of the senior sides.  Ledley King is the main example of someone who has come through the ranks, with Gardner and Davies, of players bought in just below the first XI.

The next tier of players to come through will probably include Rohan Ricketts, Jonathan Blondel, Johnnie Jackson, Stephen Kelly and Dean Marney.  Hoddle intimated today that there might be more openings for them in the first team this season.  Below that Ben Bowditch, Philip Ifil, Rob Burch, Jamie Slabber and Mark Yeates.

We have seen this close season that Hoddle has moved Alton Thelwell out of the club.  Unlucky with injuries, he was never really convincing on the ball and had a few nightmares when he first got in the first team, but the fact that he has ended up at Hull City begs the question, why weren't Premiership or even Division One or Two teams in for him ?  Hull are not over-endowed with cash, so he can't be going for the money.  The only positive link is with Peter Taylor, his former England Under-21 international.  It is necessary to move players out if they are not going to make it at Tottenham, as they will only clog up the reserves/Under-19s for others coming up behind them.  It is a constantly evolving thing and you hope that those early decisions don't come back to bite you.

If you look at some players released in recent years, then Peter Crouch looked like one we had dropped the ball on.  QPR, Portsmouth and then Aston Villa all paid money for him in increasing amounts, but his failure to make an impact on the Premiership shows that Spurs might have done right.  John Sutton was another young forward who was released and has struggled to get a club, being on trial all over the country.  Many have ended up at the likes of Barnet, Southend United and Norwich City, but the ones who make a name for themselves are the exception rather than the rule.

Matthew Etherington might go the same way.  His explosion at the end of the last home game aimed at the fans probably smacked of frustration, but he was the one who was saying he should be playing first team football.  When he did, did he really do enough to lodge a case for being kept in the starting line-up ?  If Hoddle gets Qu Bo, then Etherington might be expendable.

There are a thousand players out there who could have been contenders, but are now playing in the lower reaches of non-league football and there are a thousand reasons why that has happened.  Injury, lack of dedication, egotism, greed, some might never have been up to it, but whatever reason, they might have been in with a chance.  That is more than most get and when the chance presents itself, then they should make the most of everything they have got.  You wouldn't say that Kevin Keegan or Gary Mabbutt were the most naturally gifted players in the history of the game, but their dedication to do well at their chosen profession made them the players they were.

Some of those mentioned in David Masters' list were talented, but didn't make the most of what they had.  Some believed the publicity about themselves and got too big for their boots.  Some thought they didn't have to put the effort in.  Some wanted the money.  Some wanted to have peace of mind by moving back to their roots.  Some had a combination of one or more.

But one good player coming through can save a club big money and fund the Academy to bring through others.  That is the idea of the set-up and why it is so important to the future and present for the club.  The players have to do their bit too and they are the ones who will benefit most from what they learn in their early football development at a professional club.

Marco van Hip

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