‘I was the main man’ – Spurs academy graduate on playing with Kane, Mason, Rose, and more

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Former Tottenham striker, Jonathan Obika, has opened up on the regrets he still holds from his time at the North London club.

Obika graduated through the youth ranks at Spurs alongside the likes of Andros Townsend, Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason, and Harry Kane, all of whom have gone on to have successful careers in football.

Obika was a highly-rated attacking talent among a golden generation of kids within the Spurs academy back then and he was even handed a few first-team opportunities under Harry Redknapp.

However, things didn’t work out for Obika in North London and, following several unsuccessful loan spells, he was sold to Swindon in 2014.

The striker has now been handed a new lease of life at Scottish side St Mirren where he has become a fan favourite with his goalscoring exploits.

The 29-year-old has spoken of his experience coming through the Spurs academy. Speaking to the Daily Record, Obika said: “I came through in a group with Townsend, Mason, Rose, Adam Smith, John Bostock and Kane was a bit younger.

“So there were a few big names in there. From that particular crop, we had a lot of boys who’ve gone on to do really well.

“The standard was so strong at that time. The first-team manager, Harry Redknapp, knew all about us. Even the Under-18 games were being watched so we knew we had to perform.

“I felt I had to score goals. At that time, I was the main man in that youth team and I got those goals.

“The reports were given to the manager so you then got to train with the first team and ultimately got your chance.

“There was pressure on me but I didn’t really feel it because I was so young. Once you get a taste for it, though, you want more and that’s probably when the pressure really comes.”

The striker insisted that he was too timid when he was young and wishes that he had spoken up more often during his time at Spurs: “I was very quiet. I used to sit and think, ‘Just let your football do the talking.’

“But now I understand that managers don’t know what’s going on inside your head. So if you want to train with the first team or believe you should be, speak up.

“The worst that can happen is a no. At the very least you should be asking coaches what you need to do better.

“But I was never a talker. I would just get my head down and work. Confidence is a big thing. I should have been a lot more confident when I was young.

“I was too timid. Some of the other boys were far more confident, maybe that’s why they pushed on more.

“As well as their ability they had the confidence to back it up. They understood what they wanted to get out of their career. That’s why almost all of them are playing at some sort of top level.

“When you get your chance you have to stay on top of that. The likes of Andros and Ryan, in particular, had that drive to keep going.

“There’s no point in me wondering what might have been or why I’m not in the Premier League with them because I’ve found a home here at St Mirren, somewhere I’m settled and happy.

“I’ve no regrets. Instead, I feel proud when I speak to any of these boys.

“I get energy from them when we speak now. That pushes me to go and be what I want to be because I know how tough it was for them to break through as kids.”

Spurs Web Opinion

If you had said in 2012 that Harry Kane would go on to play more games for the Spurs first-team than Jon Obika, very few Spurs fans would have believed you. Such was the quality of Obika’s performances for the youth teams during his time at Spurs. Kane, on the other hand, never really stood out while coming through. It goes to show how difficult it is to predict how young players are going to develop.

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