Today’s article has not been written by myself, but was brilliantly put together by a very good friend of mine – Nick Harris. Nick is probably one of the most talented writers who’s work I have come across so far and I was thrilled that he would be the first person to write a guest article for me. You will definitely enjoy this piece about the youth system at Tottenham. Indulge:
Are Premier League success and youth development incompatible?
There are few more enjoyable sights as a football fan than seeing a home-grown player take to the field for your club, and those youth players that graduate into the first team are always given a little extra support as a result. It is also the stated aim of every top side to bring their own talented players through their academies and into the senior side, and every administrative body in football, from the FA to the Premier League, are keen to see this happen more regularly.
With all this in mind, it is surprising that it still happens so rarely at the best teams, and the question has to be asked whether the incessant demands for success at the top level means that clubs are unprepared to take the risk by fielding young players, and also how much blame supporters have to take for this.
Tottenham Hotspur provide a very good example of a club struggling with this dilemma. Spurs have a fantastic new training facility helping their youth academy produce of slew of excellent players that have been very successful in the under-21 Premier League and Next Generation series this season, and they have rightly been lauded for this, but in terms of their youngster stepping up into the senior side, they have a far more mixed record, and how much this will change next season is up for debate.
Tottenham Hotspur fans sing the praises of players like Tom Carroll, Andros Townsend, Alex Pritchard and Shaq Coulthirst, while at the same time demanding their team brings in more established names in the transfer window, seemingly without recognition that for every new signing brought in, a youth player is another step further away from first team action.
There is an inherent conflict in supporter’s attitude towards youngsters in their team, and the balance between blooding players and ensuring on the field success has tilted significantly towards instant gratification in recent years. There is pressure on all sides to win every game you play, with the ridiculous trend of booing your team off at half and full-time becoming disgracefully prominent last season. Add in the fact that managers generally stay at teams for no more than two or three seasons, what motivation do they have for trying to develop young players who might only hit their peak once they have already moved on?
There will always be the argument that those players who are good enough will end up on the pitch, but this clearly is not the case. Even Gareth Bale, Spurs’ best player in a generation and someone the club invested £7million in as a talented youngster, only got his chance at left-back thanks to a string of injuries. How different would his future have been without that opportunity?
There is not an easy solution, and supporters and clubs have to ask themselves how much instant success they are prepared to risk in order to give young players more of a chance at top clubs. Would you be happy to see your team stay out of the market with the explicit aim of promoting a youngster instead, or would you rather lessen the risk by spending £10million on an proven star?
It is a balancing act, but at the moment the balance in the Premier League is distorted to the point where young players have far too hard a time to get into the senior side, and changing that will need the backing of supporters, as well as the coaching hierarchies at teams in England.
Follow Nick on Twitter – @nicksharris
Follow Me on Twitter – @Nikhil_Saglani