In the last few years, public interest has continued to grow towards youth football. As the popularity increases, so does its talent. Many young players are now being brought into the first team to represent their side at cup level and even getting a run out during a league game. During Ledley King’s time in the Tottenham Hotspur development squad, there was very little interest in the players coming through the ranks, the players who could one day be the next superstars to walk onto the hallowed turf of White Hart Lane.
Nowadays, the reach of youth football has gone worldwide. Young players are getting their chance to represent their team in competitions, league fixtures and cup ties for their specific age group as well as on the international stage. The FA Youth Cup, U21 Premier League and The Next Generation Series are some examples of how young prospects can write their name on the world stage before stepping into first team football. One such player is Spurs’ highly rated midfield maestro, Alex Pritchard.
Born in May 1993, Alex Pritchard is one of the most highly rated and sought after young midfielders in European football and there is no reason why he can’t make it to the top. Alex began his football career in the claret of West Ham United before moving to the Lilywhites in June 2009. He made his Spurs debut in a 2-0 win against Birmingham U18, coming off the bench as a 16=year-old to score his first goal. After joining Spurs, Pritchard was quick to establish himself in the starting XI of the U18 team, proving vital in the Next Generation Series campaign.
During Spurs’ 2011-12 journey in this competition, Pritchard was the key to success, scoring four goals in the tournament – three coming in a mighty 7-0 drubbing of Italian side, Inter Milan. But it was during the early stages of the 2012-13 season when Alex Pritchard began to make himself one of the most sought after players in European Youth football. In the U19’s game vs Catalan giants Barcelona, Alex put in a man of the match performance to “wow” the 2,000 spectators watching in the stands at White Hart Lane that night, myself included. Despite Spurs losing 2-0 to a Barcelona team that looked very different to the first XI that Tito Vilanova sends out every week, Alex was the standout player in white that September night. In the reverse fixture, Pritchard scored the fourth in a 4-1 away win vs Barcelona – with Shaquile Coulthirst grabbing a ‘perfect hat trick’.
But Alex didn’t stop there. He was constantly embarrassing defenders during our U21 Premier League campaign, being an instrumental player in some fantastic victories. One of these victories paved the way for a new path is Alex’s footballing life. After playing superbly in the Development Squad’s 8-1 drubbing of Peterborough, Pritchard attracted the attention of Posh manager, Darren Ferguson – son of Sir Alex – who signed Pritchard on a half season loan to London Road. He impressed on his first outing at Peterborough, coming off the bench and impacting the game dramatically. Before singing the loan at Posh, Alex committed his future to Tottenham by signing a two and a half year contract at White Hart Lane, ending months of rumours of him joining Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool.
Seeing as two of these clubs have shown interest in Welsh wizard Gareth Bale, Alex’s commitment is an example of loyalty to your club even when the big boys come calling. I for one expect Alex to be a Spurs superstar should he decide to remain at the Lane and I can see him being a pivotal part of our future success at Spurs. For now, we can all admire the superb skill shown by the young Englishman and have faith in his commitment to our club.
When he does eventually break into the first team, expect to be “wowed” like 2,000 of us were that night in September. For now, let’s hope the first team can seal a Champions League spot for next season and have a good run in the Europa League while Pritchard’s teammates currently at Spurs can make it far in The Next Generation Series as well as continuing their excellent form in the U21 league.