One of the criticisms of English football has been the increased focus the buying of young foreign players. This practice is viewed as, rightly so, a detriment to young English footballers. Spurs boast a rather large complement of English players, but only 3 are products of the Spurs academy system: Ledley King, Peter Crouch, and Jamie O'Hara.
Now that the window is open the focus will, of course, be on who the team will be buying, but with the squad limits that began this season it would seem to be even more important to focus on who your club is developing. With that in mind I thought I'd take a quick look at some of the players in our youth and reserve teams developed by Spurs and discuss their prospects.
David Button: It's always hard to evaluate goalkeepers especially at a young age. It's a position where a player can play much longer and often doesn't reach their prime until later as well. As things go, Button seems alright. He has good size (6'3") and has been capped 31 times by England at various youth levels. He's had a lot of loan spells these last few years. His last two loan spells have been in League Two and League One. He's 21 and still probably has a ways to go in his development.
Steven Caulker: On a season-long loan at Bristol City in the championship. He made his first team debut in this year's Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal. At Bristol City he's been in good form and even won nPower Championship Young Player of the Month for November. He's been capped 12 times as a youth for England. He's just 19 and has been reportedly linked with a loan move to Celtic for the spring. Wouldn't be surprised to see him with Spurs next year or even this season given our injury problems. Potential to be a first-choice center back down the road.
Harry Kane: At just 17 is the youngest player on this list. Plays attacking midfield, often sitting in the hole behind the target striker. Think Rafael Van der Vaart. Scored 19 times in 22 appearances for the under-18's in 2009. Has been capped 5 times at the youth level and scored 4 goals. Has been on the first team bench on two occasions, but has yet to play. Seems to be a bit of a dead-ball specialist. Has netted several times from free-kicks (albeit in the under-18's). Look for him to go on loan at some point this year with a League One destination being likely. Along with Caulker is probably the best prospect Spurs have.
Jake Livermore: 21 year-old midfielder on loan at Ipswich Town. He's made two appearances for Spurs in his career. He's a big defensive minded midfielder. He's played ten times for Ipswich this year. Would seem to be still a ways away from playing for Spurs. Reminds me of O'Hara only a bit bigger. Useful squad player and probably a decent back-up in the middle of the park.
Ryan Mason: Still not sure what his best position is. He plays both attacking midfield and striker. Given the wealth of talent we have at AM he'd almost have to become a striker for a chance to get in the team. He's only 19 and has been capped at the youth level 4 times. Has made five appearances on loan for Doncaster in the Championship and has yet to score. Scored 29 goals in 31 appearances for the Spurs under-18 squad in 2008. Made his first team debut in the UEFA Cup in 2008. If he can continue to score goals there's no reason to think he won't be in the side at some point. Probably still needs more seasoning in the Championship before he'll secure a spot in the team.
Jonathan Obika: Powerful young striker has already made 2 appearances for Spurs (both in 2008's UEFA Cup campaign) and been capped 3 times at the youth level for England. He's currently on loan at Crystal Palace. Really needs to improve his finishing as he has yet to even score 10 goals in a season. Very strong and holds the ball up fairly well, but is too short to be a target striker. He possess a fair amount of pace, but again his finishing is not the best. Like Mason, if he proves he can score than he could be a valuable asset.
Dean Parrett: Another player who made his first team debut in the 2008 UEFA Cup. Spent time on-loan at Plymouth Argyle before being recalled in November. Look for him to be loaned out again during this window. The 19 year-old has been capped 23 times a youth for England. Sort of a O'Hara clone. Smallish, but rather tough. Typical sort of terrier-ish midfielder. Another player who is still a few years away, but who definitely has the potential to be a decent squad player.
Adam Smith: A right back that loves to get forward. Seriously, how many right backs does this club have? On loan at League Two side Bournemouth. I don't have much to say about him because unlike pretty much everyone else on this list I've never seen him play. Seems to be impressing in League Two. He's 19 so let's just see how he develops. Though with lots (no, really, lots) of players in front of him doubt he'll ever see the first team.
Andros Townsend: Pacey winger spent time on-loan at Ipswich before being recalled in Devember. He's been capped 15 times at the youth level for England. Played several times for Spurs in pre-season friendlies this year. As I mentioned, he's quite fast and not small (listed at 6'). Players with pace are always at a premium, but like Aaron Lennon his problem is his final ball. He also seems to get knocked off the ball a bit easily. Perhaps his biggest problem though is that he plays left midfield and that position seems to be locked down by Gareth Bale.
Noticeably absent from this list are the two Kyles (Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton), Danny Rose, and John Bostock. They're certainly good players, but since they were developed at Sheffield United, Leeds, and Crystal Palace, not at Spurs they're not here. Just for a brief discussion, Walker looks to be the best player and has already returned to the club from loan at QPR (EDIT: And has since been Loaned to Aston Villa). Look for him to get some games in at right back in the FA Cup.
So there you have it. I'm admittedly no expert, but having seen most of these players play at least once (and most multiple times) I think I was able to make an informed judgement on them. If Spurs are going to succeed in the coming years developing players is going to be even more important. Hopefully we'll see a few of these players in the squad in the years to come!