Manchester United and Arsenal have successful long-term strategies in place, where young players come through (or are bought), sometimes gradually, sometimes quickly, depending on their progress and temperament. Last season Arsenal had eight under 24-year-olds starting around 230 games between them; United had seven starting nearly 150 games. Spurs had three starting 44 games.
A sound youth development strategy has benefited clubs on the pitch and financially (when a player is sold), and there is perhaps a stronger bond between player, club and fans. Admittedly, it is something of a gamble but it can work with solid investment in academies and scouting networks. The annual investment is equal to around half of a Jordan Henderson, but may bring great returns as witnessed at Barcelona. Closer to home fans may be wondering exactly what is Spurs’ long-term youth policy? What is in place to bring through the young players on a regular basis?
There is a balance in loaning out players for development, but Spurs’ youngsters seem to continuously go out on loan instead of being introduced into the team via cup games or the subs bench. Giovanni has had 10 games in three seasons; Abdel Taarabt had nine games in three years. Kyle Walker has become an England international while on loan. Steven Caulker, who last season earned rave reviews, could be a partial answer to the centre back issue but appears to be heading out on loan again. Who among Naughton, Obina, Bostock and others will get any opportunity?
Far from giving the impression he trusts youth, Redknapp instead signs or resigns older players. Crouch, Keane, Defoe and briefly Chimbonda have all been brought back to the club. David Beckham, Scott Parker and Joe Cole have been courted. Spur’s goalkeeping problem has not been resolved with the signing of a De Gea like Alex Ferguson, but the capture of 40-year-old Brad Friedel. A fine keeper, but this is hardly building for the future.
Tottenham fans should not be surprised at any apparent lack of youth strategy. During Redknapp’s time as West Ham manager he signed 58 players. In his first two-year spell at Portsmouth, 41 players were bought and 41 sold. The transfer market, rather than a development policy, seems his preferred option. For the long-term benefit of Spurs, it might be wise for the club to return to a continental style set up to revitalize the youth development system.