Tottenham Hotspur could take plenty of positives from their 4-0 win over Wolfsberger on Wednesday night.
One particular highlight was the decision to hand two of the club’s academy players, Marcel Lavinier and Nile John their senior debuts after coming on late in the game.
Lavinier only arrived at Spurs last summer after leaving Chelsea and it is a sign of the tremendous progress he has made in his short time at the club that Jose Mourinho decided to hand him a taste of first-team football.
The right-back certainly did not look out of place in the little over 15 minutes he got under his belt, with Mourinho praising the defender after the game and tipping him to have a big future.
The 20-year-old admitted that the experience of walking out on to the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was a surreal one.
He told the club’s official website: “I’ve done the Skywalk up on the stadium but it’s my first time in here – it’s an amazing stadium, I’m just happy that I could have this special achievement and make my debut here.
“It’s surreal. As soon as I got on the pitch, I was like ‘wow’, and thinking that this is what I want to do on a regular basis.
“The boys did well, dictated the game, defended well and kept a clean sheet which was good and, for me personally, I’m so happy to make my debut – it shows that the hard work that I’ve been putting in is finally paying off and I just hope there’s more to come.
“I’ve got to thank all the coaching staff at Tottenham, Jose Mourinho, the Under-23s coaching staff..everyone behind the scenes because I haven’t done it by myself, I’ve been supported by them and ever since I’ve come here I’ve felt welcomed, I’ve felt supported and once I get that feeling, I can just go on the pitch and the rest takes care of itself really.
“I’ve had a taste of it now and I want to try to get back to it, and to do all I can to make sure that this is a regular thing.”
The occasion was arguably even more special for 17-year-old Nile John, who has spent ten years at Spurs after joining the club as a seven-year-old.
The midfielder replaced Moussa Sissoko with around ten minutes left on the clock and put in a respectable display.
The youngster revealed that he was only made aware that he would be part of the first-team squad for the clash a few days beforehand and described the feeling of making his senior debut as ‘crazy’.
John said: “I was in education at home on Monday morning and I got a call from Dean (Rastrick, Academy Manager) at about 10.30 saying that I was with the first team.
“I assumed I was going to be training with the first team, then when Tuesday came I found out I was involved in the squad, I was getting my suit fitted and things like that, so it was a crazy experience!
“It was surreal being out there on the pitch, something that I’d dreamed about, making an appearance for the first team. I was very nervous when the time came but I felt like I kept my cool, tried to do my best for the team and I was really happy to make my debut.
“It says a lot with the staff and the players that are at this Club – it shows that players who work hard can get the opportunity under a manager who believes in youth, so it’s something to always look up to and build towards because it can happen and I’m an example of that, likewise with Dane (Scarlett) as well.
“I’m, extremely thankful to Jose and his staff for giving me this opportunity and it’s something that hopefully I can progress with, maybe potentially a Premier League debut when the time is right. That’s something I’m striving for and working towards and with the help of the staff and me pushing myself as much as I can, hopefully, it can come.”
Another academy starlet who was named on the bench for the clash was winger Dilan Markanday.
While the 19-year-old did not manage to get on to the pitch, he admitted that it was a learning experience for him to be part of the squad for the clash.
Markanday said: “It was an incredible experience being on the bench for the first team for the first time, especially in the Europa League – such a big stage.
“It was amazing to be out here, to be part of the group – it’s just a shame there were no fans here as that would have been really special.
“The intensity and quality is so high here in the first team – the communication, everyone is talking, the professionalism on and off the pitch as well. You see the way they eat and the way they prepare for the games in the changing room. It was really eye-opening and a great experience for me.”
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While making their senior debuts was obviously a special occasion for the likes of Lavender and John, who are likely to remember this day for a long time, this also sends out a message to other academy players that they will be handed first-team opportunities if they keep working hard and progressing.
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