Tom Carroll: Leading the U-21s?
Interesting news, as Tottenham Hotspur has agreed to compete in the new Barclays Under-21 Premier League next season. Spurs are one of 23 clubs taking part, with 17 from the Premier League and six from the Championship. The new competition is part of FA's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and has apparently "been devised as part of the new system that will help bridge the gap between Academy and First Team."
Logistically, this new competition builds on last season's NextGen Series (a U-19 tournament featuring the best clubs in Europe) in creating a top notch competition for those players between the academy and first team. The NextGen side seems likely to help build a core of a team for this new competition. But the higher age allotment allows Tottenham to keep many young players with the team and give them serious competition.
Tottenham will play in National Group Two, along with Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, and Watford. The rules will be as such:
"After this first group stage, the clubs will be placed into three groups based on their performance. The top three teams from National Group One and Two and the top two sides from National Group Three will qualify for the Elite Group, with the other clubs making it into Qualification Group Tier One or Qualification Group Tier Two depending on their finishing position.
The teams will again play home and away with the top three teams from the Elite Group qualifying for the knockout semi-finals.The winners of the two Qualification Groups will take part in a play-off to decide who will make up the quartet. The semi-final winners will then contest the final.
The emphasis will be on playing U21 players with each team limited to just three over-age outfield players and one over-age goalkeeper."
Practically, many of Spurs' younger players are affected by this new tournament. For the likes of Tom Carroll, Harry Kane, Andros Townsend, and Adam Smith, who are on the fringes of the first team, the league may allow competitive games that can give regular playing time, even if they cannot break through into games with the first team. It seems likely that this U-21 team may train fully with the first team, yet have the players who don't dress on the weekend compete in this youth league.
This new league seems to fall directly in the youth policy of assistant coach Tim Sherwood, who has said previously on loans: "I will sit down with [Andre Villas-Boas] and talk in more depth about his philosophy on loaning younger players. But I think there might be a change of tack, because we don't really learn anything from sending players to the Championship for a second time."
These words, along with this new league, seem to indicate that many more of Spurs' young professionals will stay with the club, rather than the loan system used heavily under Redknapp. Players like Iago Falque, Christian Ceballos, John Bostock, Jordan Archer, Cameron Lancaster, and Jonathan Obika seem much more likely to stay with Spurs and get provided regular playing time in this new U-21 league.
All in all, this new competition seems fantastic news for Tottenham Hotspur. This team will seem to be a great mix of rising prospects (e.g. Souleymane Couldibaly), professionals looking for playing time (e.g. Iago Falque), and first teamers on the verge of breaking through (e.g. Tom Carroll). Look out for this squad's first game, away to Newcastle on August 18th.