Mauricio Pochettino needs to rethink bizarre approach to youth development

Chris Miller has some strong words for the Tottenham boss.

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When Mauricio Pochettino arrived at Tottenham and led the now-famous revolution of the team, he had young players like Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb to bring from the Academy into the first team.

But this time around, when he could really do with some little-known gems, he has nobody ready-made to drop into his squad.

This is largely due to the club’s own lack-of forward planning and his somewhat bizarre approach to developing young players.

Mauricio Pochettino

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Almost from the off, Pochettino took the unusual stance of keeping young players who he liked around the first team squad rather than sending them out on loan to get league experience.

This initially worked well (eventually) with Harry Winks who, after two years of training with the first team, came into the squad and ended up establishing himself.

But, it has yet to pay off for any other Academy players.

Kyle Walker-Peters is the obvious example of a player who has halted his career in the hope of following the Winks route. He was a superstar in Spurs’ U18s, and an England regular in every age group.

But, he has not developed since that point because he’s barely had the space on the pitch to develop.

He waited patiently for his opportunity and seemed to take it with some Man of the Match performances in the Premier League. However, here we are after three or four seasons of stagnation for him – limited football at all levels has seen to that – and he is no longer making the matchday squad having started the season in the team.

There are concerns that Japhet Tanganga, Oliver Skipp and Troy Parrott are about to go down the same path, though at least Parrott has been allowed to play some UEFA Youth League and Premier League 2 matches.

Tanganga and Skipp, though, have barely kicked a ball this season, at any level. Tanganga also now seems to be in the all-too-familiar contract stand-off with Spurs.

He won’t be allowed to go on loan because he won’t sign a contract, and he won’t sign a contract because he’s not getting any football or loan opportunities.

This has reportedly happened before with Marcus Edwards, Milos Veljkovic, Samuel Shashoua, Jack Roles, Keanan Bennetts, Reo Griffiths and others.

Only Roles remains at the club, and that came after a lengthy contract dispute which nearly saw him picked up for free by another Premier League club. The irony of Tanganga’s situation is that had he not done so well in pre-season, the chances are that he would be out on loan picking up crucial Football League experience.

Indeed, he only went on the tour because TJ Eyoma, previously ahead of him in the pecking order, was injured.

If you look back to the England Under-21 squad named for the Scotland and Andorra games in October 2017, you will notice two things. Firstly, nearly every player is a regular starter now, many in the Premier League.

Two stand out who are not: two Spurs players, Joshua Onomah and Kyle Walker-Peters.

Onomah, like Walker-Peters, was initially kept in the first team squad, his ascension from the Under-18s clipped at the wings with game-time lacking. He too saw his development stall, and eventually – once Pochettino decided that he wasn’t keen after all – was allowed out on loan.

Both represented England consistently from England Under-18s through to England-U21s, and Omomah from U16s. This is a development problem, and it is wrong to continually point to the players not cutting the mustard when given a chance.

At the same time that that Under-21 squad was announced, an England Under-19 squad was named for matches against the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

There are a lot of players with a lot of minutes under their belts there. And then there’s Japhet Tanganga, who has played 66 minutes (in the EFL Cup) in his career so far. History could well repeat itself.

Pochettino and the club need to re-think the way that they are developing young players and create a pathway.

The most obvious way to do this would be to bring in someone to oversee the development of players post-scholarship; to arrange and manage loans, to carry out progress checks.

We should be using young players from a position of strength – where we have seen enough of them to know we can rely on them by either letting them out on loan or giving them minutes here and there – rather than not knowing whether they will cope with the pressure of first-team football.

If Pochettino does not want to offer those minutes to players himself (which is a legitimate stance), then loans are the obvious answer.

At the very least, it will help build value within the player and we can then make a tidy profit on sales. At the moment, we risk losing our talent for little or nothing.

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