Opinion: What is the next step for Dane Scarlett at Spurs?

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In the midst of frustration and disappointment surrounding the first team results in the last few weeks, there has been somewhat a silver-lining at Tottenham.

16-year-old Dane Scarlett has burst onto the scene this season after his terrific performances in the Spurs youth squad, notching an extraordinary 20 goals in 15 youth games (TransferMarkt).

After starting in the U18 side, he was soon promoted to the U23s and continued his fine goalscoring form against older opposition, scoring twice in three Premier League 2 fixtures.

At the beginning of 2021, Scarlett scored five goals in Spurs 6-2 victory over Newport County in the FA Cup Youth Cup, prompting Jose Mourinho to include him in the senior squad for the Premier League.

The teenage striker had already made his debut earlier in the season after being substituted for the final 10 minutes in the 4-0 win over Ludogorets in the Europa League.

He became the youngster-ever player to appear in a senior first-team competitive game for Spurs, which was subsequently broken by Alfie Devine in January.

However, Scarlett broke the same record for the Premier League at the end of January, coming on for the final few minutes against West Brom Albion.

His remarkable rise through the youth teams and into first-team recognition has Spurs supporters filled with excitement, and rightly so, but what direction should Scarlett and Spurs take next season to continue his rapid development?

A loan move

At the age of 16, it seems ludicrous to be talking about regular first-team minutes for Scarlett. However, the teenager has burst through Spurs youth set-up and has shown that he is good enough to start featuring more regularly in senior football, but not for Spurs.

If Scarlett wants to search for minutes on the pitch against experienced players, then a season-long loan move is the appropriate way.

Signing for a League Two or even League One club could be incredible for Scarlett’s development and add heaps of experience to his game before his 18th birthday.

However, temporary departures don’t always ignite a youngster’s career, and they can negatively affect their confidence.

For example, Troy Parrott sealed a season-long move to Championship side Millwall after impressing in Spurs youth squads. He failed to score a single goal in 14 appearances, resulting in Spurs recalling the striker and re-loan him to League One side Ipswich Town.

Scarlett has already made a mark in the U18s and U23s, now his next challenge will be to do it in senior football to show whether the 16-year-old is really the big deal.

Remain in and around the first team 

Another solution would be Mauricio Pochettino’s usual tactic with youngsters, keeping them in and around the first team throughout the season, with one or two appearances here and there.

This worked wonders for Harry Winks, who broke in the senior squad without any experience on loan, or it could work out like Kyle Walker-Peters, stalling development and eventually forcing him to leave the club with barely any first-team experience.

Scarlett would have the pleasure of learning the trade alongside one of the best strikers in world football at the moment, while being taught by one of the most successful managers in history.

However, training is completely different from competing in a full 90-minute match each week, and I feel it would stall his progress in the long-term.

Remain in the youth set-up

The 16-year-old has been in extraordinary form for Spurs U18s and rightly earned his promotion to the U23s.

It was no surprise to see Scarlett continue his goalscoring touch against higher-level of opposition, scoring once against Chelsea and Brighton. However, are three games enough evidence to show whether Scarlett is too good for the U23s level?

I know the season is not over yet and Scarlett could notch in 10 goals before it ends. Before Spurs make a serious decision on whether the teenager should play regular first-team minutes, he needs to show on a consistent basis that he can do it at U23 level.

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