Spurs undergoing revolution under Postecoglou

Tottenham Hotspur are undergoing something of a revolution on and off the pitch and it’s something that could be felt for years to come.
One of Ange Postecoglou’s aims at every football club he manages is to bring the fanbase and the team back together as he believes they feed off the energy each other creates. Few things bring more energy than a young player becoming a star in front of your eyes and the last time Tottenham supporters felt close to their team was when Mauricio Pochettino built a young and talented team that shook up the established order in the Premier League.
History feels like it is repeating itself right now at Spurs but to an even deeper degree at the north London club with a real positivity growing around the academy and the talents coming through the ranks right now and those coming into it from the outside.
As one of those, Spurs are set to sign 16-year-old Croatian wonderkid Luka Vuskovic from Hajduk Split ahead of many of the world’s biggest clubs. The 6ft 4ins centre-back has already played 11 times for Hajduk’s first team, eight times in their top flight last season, despite having only just turned 16 when he was handed his debut in February.
Under FIFA’s rules, the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU means that clubs are not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18.
That means the talented teenager will not arrive at Tottenham until he reaches that age in 2025, but his decision to join, with Manchester City having reportedly made a £10.2m bid for him this year and Liverpool, Chelsea and PSG among the many top clubs around the globe interested in one of the game’s most sought after young talents, shows the growing excitement around what is happening at Spurs and also a belief that young players can flourish there again after a stale period.
As Pochettino’s tenure at Tottenham continued and the team became more and more successful so the Argentine admitted that he could only turn to academy players if they were truly something special.
Then came Jose Mourinho’s era. The Portuguese had a penchant for handing out debuts to young players but few of them if any continued to be a presence in his team.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s time at Tottenham was fleeting and barely felt within the club while Antonio Conte’s views on young players were clear. They had to be ready to fit straight into his system, it was not his job to develop them to the required standard and so the pathway from the academy to the Italian’s first team grew long, overgrown with weeds and in some places completely cordoned off.
Then Postecoglou arrived. While much of the Australian’s early tenure has been spent focused on the first team and turning that around, he has made himself available to the academy staff and it helps that the youth teams from the U21s down have always been encouraged to play in a way that is not a far cry from the attacking football the new head coach demands, with everyone encouraged to play attacking, possession-based football.
The 58-year-old is not concerned about age and comes from the ideology that if you are good enough then you are old enough.
“Over my time I’d found that the earlier promising players are thrown into the mix, the better for everyone,” Postecoglou said in his book ‘Changing the Game: Football in Australia Through My Eyes’. “The better players will really thrive and the strugglers will be found out, and no further resources will be used up on them.
“Panachaiki was going to get that treatment. In Greece I put the young, untested guys into the team en masse and was rewarded for it. I’ve never been scared to trust kids since. When I went to Brisbane, putting a young Tommy Oar and Luke DeVere in the team was easy.
“When I went to Victory I had no hesitation in playing 17-year-old Scott Galloway in the Melbourne derby. One of the young kids at Panachaiki who I made a first-team regular at 17, Andreas Samaris, is now playing for Benfica in Portugal and is also a mainstay in the Greek national team.
“Coaching Panachaiki was one of the most thrilling experiences I have had because I started from scratch and proved to myself that I was able to remain the type of coach I wanted to be, and still am today, despite the circumstances.”
Postecoglou has remained that coach – unencumbered by fear – and he shows that in his team selection and in doing so passes that fearlessness on to his players.
In his first Premier League game he had no concerns about throwing 22-year-old Micky van de Ven in for his debut after just one training session with the club and on top of that played him alongside a 20-year-old in Destiny Udogie, who was making his debut in the competition.
It’s not just those two though. Postecoglou has overhauled the age of his squad. Among those heading out of the door this summer were Harry Kane (30), Lucas Moura (30), Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez (both 27), while the loan of Clement Lenglet (28) was not taken up again. Former club captain Hugo Lloris (36) declared that he wanted a new challenge although that is yet to be found.
Of the new faces in his squad this season, James Maddison and Guglielmo Vicario are by far the oldest at 26, the rest were 22-years-old (Van de Ven and Brennan Johnson), 23 (Manor Solomon), 19 (Alejo Veliz) and 18 (Ashley Phillips) while Pedro Porro and Dejan Kulusevski (both 23) had their loan moves made permanent and Udogie (20) finally arrived after his loan season back at Udinese.
Postecoglou has also used 20-year-old Pape Matar Sarr in every match so far with 22-year-old Oliver Skipp getting a fair bit of game time. Older players such as Ivan Perisic (34), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (28) and Ben Davies (30) remain useful squad members but have seen their minutes shrink this season so far while Eric Dier (29) has not been named in a single matchday squad yet.
That trust in youth filters down through the age levels and after a period in which Spurs began to lose young players who were not convinced of the pathway ahead they are now bringing them through the door.
Former managing director of football Fabio Paratici, who retained a consultancy role at the club, did not have the biggest focus on the academy – he rarely attended youth matches other than the odd home UEFA Youth League game – but he did push for some changes that benefited the club’s pull in the youth market.
The Italian increased the wage structure available to the academy, something the previous long-time academy head John McDermott is understood to have been less keen on as he wanted to keep young players hungry for football rather than financial gain.
In today’s game though money does help when fishing in a pool full of talent but alongside plenty of frantic fellow fishermen. That increased wage structure plus a clearer path to the first team has helped the academy stock up with some of its most talented players in recent years, while allowing others who were unlikely to break through leave such as Maksim Paskotsi and Harvey White this summer.
Strikers Jude Soonsup-Bell and Will Lankshear were brought in last season from Chelsea and Sheffield United respectively, although both were lost to injuries soon after their return. This season, both back and fit, the former already has four goals and two assists in his first four matches in Premier League 2 and the latter has scored three times in those four games.
For U21s boss Wayne Burnett, he is finally getting the chance to coach a fit and fully-stocked team after various circumstances off the pitch contributed to the team’s relegation last season, a drop that came despite a near unbeaten 2023 and was fortunately reversed with the competition changing format into one bigger league.
Burnett now has that team flying high on top of the 26-team table, having won all four matches and scored 15 goals with just one conceded. Manchester City were brushed aside 5-0 away from home, Newcastle 4-1, Derby 2-0 and Blackburn 4-0.
Jamie Donley is turning heads this season after a campaign in which he had to play in a variety of positions to fill the injury-enforced gaps in the team. Now he has six assists and a goal in his four games this time around while Yago Santiago has four goals and four assists from those matches. The duo have both been nominated for the August Premier League 2 Player of the Month award.
Then there is the defence with Alfie Dorrington and Brooklyn Lyons-Foster imperious in front of talented young Irish keeper Josh Keeley in allowing just that one goal to get past them. Dorrington, 18, is being earmarked as a future first teamer and has been training with Postecoglou’s side at times this season. Keely was taken on the club’s summer tour under Postecoglou.
For the versatile Lyons-Foster, who has shared his time between central defence and midfield this season as well as captaining the side, at 22 he is the elder statesman in the squad and turns 23 on December 1. He has flirted with the first team set-up at times, getting on the bench in the Europa Conference League on a couple of occasions under Espirito Santo but now his age means he will have to be registered as an over-21 homegrown player if he is to harbour any dreams of finally getting first team minutes.
The likelihood is that Dorrington, who signed a new contract in the summer, will be watched ever more closely by Postecoglou following Sanchez’s departure, while Ashley Phillips is in line for minutes despite being just 18 if Van de Ven or Cristian Romero miss out through injury or suspension.
Phillips scored his first international goal on Saturday for England’s U19s as they beat Switzerland. Dorrington, Donley and another rising Spurs goalkeeper, Luca Gunter, were all involved in that England squad, although Donley picked up a small injury that prevented him from playing.
Postecoglou has been impressed by Phillips although there is a wariness of placing too much pressure on a teenager with just eight Championship appearances to his name.
The well-regarded Simon Davies now heads up Spurs’ academy, taking over from the long-serving and popular Dean Rastrick this summer.
Davies’ job is to sync up the academy with the first team and Postecoglou’s trust in youth has made his role that little bit easier.
There is belief though in Tottenham about the youngsters coming through and a belief among them that they can progress now at the club and that is reflected by a number of signing new deals throughout the age groups, such as the gifted 16-year-olds Mikey Moore and Callum Olusesi, both eyed up by plenty of clubs across the Premier League and Europe.
Both committed to Spurs and are now regulars in the U18s, while the slightly older Oliver Irow and Tyrese Hall are among the many there are high hopes for.
From the outside, attacking talent Herbie James was brought in from Manchester City as was defender Calum Logan from Ipswich, both players just 16-years-old.
Highly-rated youth coach Stuart Lewis led the U18s and U17s to lift the Premier League Cup in both of those age groups last season and that brought plenty of positivity to the academy.
Soon after Matthew Craig and George Abbott, who won both of those cups under Lewis, were handed their Premier League debuts by Ryan Mason in the final game of last season and that only boosted the good feeling around the academy for the job done in developing the players to that stage.
That’s not even to mention teenagers Alfie Devine and Dane Scarlett, who have each impressed Postecoglou this summer and were given loans to Port Vale and Ipswich with the real hope that they will return next summer to challenge for spots in the Australian’s first team.
With Vuskovic set to join the fold the following year, the list of young talented players gestating at Spurs could well result in a golden generation coming through at the club just in time for a manager who will have no hesitation in using them. The future appears to be bright at Tottenham Hotspur beneath the surface as well as on top of it.
(Football London – Alasdair Gold)
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