‘He won’t get a game’ – Arsenal legend hits out at Spurs for Spence transfer

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Paul Merson has warned Djed Spence he will struggle to get gain time at Tottenham after Antonio Conte admitted he was not his own signing. 

The 21-year-old wing-back recently became Spurs’ sixth summer signing after completing an initial £12.5 million move from Middlesbrough, rising to a potential £20 million with add-ons (The Guardian).

Spence made his Spurs debut by coming on as a substitute in the 2-1 pre-season win over Rangers, although his first bow came after an honest admission from Conte earlier in the week. 

The Italian coach claimed the England U21 international was not a player he pushed hard to sign for himself, revealing he was more of a transfer made by the club that he approved (Football.London). 

The admission has now led former Arsenal and England midfielder Merson – who had a similar experience at Portsmouth towards the end of his career – to believe Spence may struggle to force his way into Conte’s thoughts next season. 

Writing in his column for the Daily Star: “Antonio Conte admitting that Djed Spence wasn’t his signing is a slap in the face for Tottenham’s latest buy.

“It’s terrible when you know the manager didn’t really want you. I’ve been in that situation myself – but I decided not to go. Years ago I had a chance to join West Brom and the club rang me up when I left Portsmouth and said they wanted to sign me.

“I said: ‘Brilliant. But I don’t think the manager, Gary Megson, would have it.’ And they said: ‘It doesn’t matter, we want to sign you anyway!’ But it doesn’t work like that. You want to sign for a manager who wants you. The manager has to like you. 

“I wasn’t convinced Gary Megson would want me because I don’t play the way he likes, but they told me they were sure he would. Gary Megson was on holiday at the time and West Brom said they would get hold of him and let me know.

“They rang me back three days later and said: ‘Yeah, you were right, he doesn’t want you!’

“But I didn’t mind that. I never wanted to go to a place where the manager didn’t want me. The manager picks the team.

“Daniel Levy isn’t picking the team at Tottenham. Antonio Conte is. And buying him a player he didn’t ask for? That doesn’t work for me. I don’t like that one. You’ve got an elite manager there. Why mess it up. Don’t upset an elite manager.”

He added: “Djed Spence won’t play will he? He won’t get a game. And that’s a shame because he’s a really good player, and to be fair the likes of Emerson Royal haven’t pulled up any trees.

“But Spurs do this a lot. They like to buy young players whether the manager wants them or not. It’s happened a few times.

“They’ve got to catch other teams up and the only way to make sure you’re doing that over the long term is to make sure you’re buying quality youngsters who develop. I get that. But it’s not a good start if you know the manager didn’t really want you.

“He will find it much harder in the Premier League than he did in the Championship where he was ripping it up.

“Over the long term, it could be a good signing. But he’s obviously going to have be patient. And Conte isn’t going to be there forever. It was different for me. I was coming to the end of my career. Djed Spence has his ahead of him.”

Spurs Web Opinion 

Conte’s comments on Spence have unsurprisingly worried a few, but they may have also been wildly overblown. Spurs have paid attention to Spence for a while before Conte was at the club and they will have advised him on the transfer beforehand as he may not keep tabs on Championship football. Conte definitely wanted the youngster still, otherwise he would not have approved the deal.

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