With a mixed campaign for the academy last season, Spurs fans should keep an eye on how the young starlets get on.
Last season, the U17 and U18 to the finals of the Premier League cups. Spurs went on to lift both of these trophies with superb performances in the finals.
Despite the success of the younger age groups, the U21s did not do as well and were relegated on the final day of the season. Although they had a good run in 2023, it was not enough to keep them up, and the U21s seemed to face a season in the PL2 Division Two.
However, the U21s were saved by a late format change, which meant they no longer faced relegation and instead would resume their run in the PL2 Division One. Spurs confirmed that “for the new campaign, there will be one division made up of the 26 clubs with Category One Academies, with participating teams divided into five pots based on performances over the past three seasons”.(Spurs)
The Spurs squad this season is still very young, with most players far below 21 years of age. Nevertheless, most played in the PL2 last year and know what it takes to play at this level. The squad will likely have support from some of the older academy players and graduates, such as Alfie Devine, Dane Scarlett, and the recently signed Ashley Phillips if any of them remain at the club rather than being loaned out.
However, these players will only be used if they are necessary for the squad’s benefit as they will most likely feature in some senior games throughout the season. Some of the high-level prospects can be seen here.
With the arrival of Ange Postecoglou, not only did a new philosophy for the club arrive, but so did a new academy director. Simon Davies will take up this role and will be in charge of coherency between the senior squad and the academy, something that was visibly lacking under Antonio Conte’s tenure.
Davies joined Spurs in 2022 as Head of Methodology for the Academy after his stint as an assistant coach for Vincent Company at RSC Anderlecht. With this recent promotion, Davies is one of the most influential figures at the club and the development of the youth cannot be understated.
First three games:
The U21s will play their first match away against Manchester City on August 12. This will be a huge test for the youngsters, as Man City have won the PL2 three seasons running, and they don’t plan on slowing down. This will be a particularly tough game for Spurs, but a win could give the academy some momentum heading into the season.
Spurs’ next two games are against Newcastle and Derby. Newcastle are a newly promoted side in the PL2 and in the season prior they finished 8th. The new PL2 format change has also benefited Newcastle as they are now in the academy top flight, but this blessing could also be a curse as their academy squads may not be up to scratch yet.
The final game of Spurs’ first three is Derby and this will be by far the most trouble-free game. Derby had a horrendous 2022/23 campaign, with just one point coming from 20 games. In their last five games of the season, they conceded 20 goals and scored just four.
North London derby:
The North London derby is away on March 8th. In the most recent derby, Spurs took home three points when they beat Arsenal 2-1. They did, however, have a helping hand from seasoned professional Lucas Moura, who scored early on.
There is only one North London derby in the league this season, as you only play each team once unless you meet in the playoffs. This fixture is always contentious and will be a very close and thrilling game. The U21’s North London derbies are largely representative of the senior games, where form holds little weight as it is always a game fought with emotion and passion.
Final three games:
Spurs’ run to the end of the regular season is favourable, playing two out of the three games at home. If Spurs are in a playoff position, this is a perfect way to round off the regular season matches.
In the first match out of the final three, Spurs take on Reading at home. Last season, Reading’s academy was in Category Two after being moved down from Category One due to their transition to a new training group at Bearwood Park. (Reading).
This meant Reading faced a slightly lower standard of opponent, and now that they are back in category one, the shift up to the teams they will face this season could mean they will struggle. Not only this, they have a thin senior squad, and many of the older academy prospects will play for the senior squad, meaning the academy misses out on talent.
In the penultimate game of the season, Spurs will take on Wolverhampton Rovers at home. Last season, Wolves finished one spot ahead of Spurs and therefore survived what was perceived as the “drop”.
The last time the two sides met, the points were shared as the game was drawn 1-1. The senior manager of Wolves, Julen Lopetegui, has just left the club, and the effects of this are yet to be seen, but it could force the academy to make a stylistic change.
In the final match of the season, Spurs will face Fulham away from home. Last season, Fulham were immense in the PL2. By the end of the season, they sat fifth in the table with an incredible 41 points. This game will undoubtedly be tough for Spurs, especially since it is away. Ideally, Spurs will already be in a playoff spot, but this match could be a high-pressure end to the season.
If Spurs were to make the playoffs, it would be a 16-team play-off with single ties played until a final. Much of the current squad played in the U18 and U17 Premier League Cup-winning teams, and this experience will hopefully prevail in the new play-off format.
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