Tottenham Hotspur’s U21 side returned to action with a 5-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in their first match of the Elite Group phase of their U21 Premier League. With the senior side sometimes struggling for goals, could one or two of Spurs’ talented youngsters be given an opportunity in the first team?
Along with Tom Carroll, Iago Falque and Andros Townsend, who have seen limited first team action already this season, perhaps the three names currently standing out are Ryan Mason, Jon Obika and Alex Pritchard.
The latter has been in fine goal scoring form in the U21 league and also in the Next Gen tournament, and opened the scoring against Southampton with a yet another beautifully judged free kick. Obika also netted a brace in the match, whilst Mason put in another excellent performance playing behind the front three.
The five goals took the side’s tally to 48 in the U21 league already, having netted a scarcely believable 43 times in 12 games in winning their first phase group. The closest team to that total were Southampton themselves, who managed 24 goals in their twelve games.
Of course there’s no guarantee that these players will be able to step up to the highest level easily, but their form for the youth teams is beginning to demand they are given a chance. Mason and Obika are 21 and 22 respectively whilst Pritchard is 19. They’re clearly not old players, but they’re not incredibly young either, and they will be looking to play first team football at some stage in the near future. Ezekiel Fryers was an excellent acquisition this January, but should also act as a reminder that young players won’t stay at a club forever if they’re not given a chance.
It’s also worth remembering that Spurs lost their U21 manager, Alex Inglethorpe, to Liverpool in November. Inglethorpe as much as anyone knows the talent that exists in the Spurs youth set up, and Brendan Rodgers has demonstrated several times this season that he is prepared to play young players in all competitions. If Spurs aren’t prepared to give players like Pritchard and Mason a chance, Liverpool might well be.
So a note of caution should be present in celebrating the fantastic season that the Spurs youth sides are having, but only a small one, as it is a celebration after all. The youngsters should be lauded to the rafters for their performances, but the most important reward for those performances is a chance at a senior level, and Tottenham should make every effort to make sure they get those opportunities.