Ange is impressed: 7 academy players listed to make Spurs first-team impact

For a while, the Tottenham Hotspur academy would play a completely different style of football from the first team under Jose, Nuno, and Conte—a style infused with the club’s DNA.

Since there was no parity between the first team and the academy, making the journey extremely tough for young players, this was a clear indication to those following the academy that Daniel Levy never saw those managers as long-term initiatives.

The only notable graduates in the last 15 years have been Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Oliver Skipp, Kane, and others. All of these players, with the exception of Skipp, have earned senior England caps, which is something to be proud of. However, Hotspur Way’s academy output is simply not on the same level as that of Cobham or City.

The academy has produced a center forward of such extraordinary quality, which is a tribute to it; it’s just not consistent enough in delivering the desired level a top club is meant to be attaining. Of course, Harry Kane, the all-time Premier League leading goalscorer for Tottenham, is the biggest success.

Although the fan base is demanding that Troy Parrott play in 2020 due to injuries to other first-team forwards, the academy wasn’t the best at preparing Parrott for how Jose would need him to play. To be fair, Jose Mourinho was quite good at how he blooded in his youth and was undoubtedly the better of the three.

Conte thought that academy players in the first team should be prepared to step up right away and not require much of his development assistance. A paradoxical mentality and formation would be faced by any players called up to first team training, despite the academy’s attempts to play spacious, offensive football.

According to citations, Wayne Burnett’s U21 team members were frequently called up by Conte to be used in matches as akin to static training cones, undermining Burnett’s daily training plans. Some of the players were even called up on matchday, leaving the U21 team shorthanded, which unintentionally resulted in a poor season for the team—they were only spared relegation after a rule change that expanded the number of PL2 teams allowed them to stay up.

Following his arrival, Fabio Paratici has made a concerted attempt to mold Spurs into the contemporary big club model. To this end, he has raised salaries to keep top players on the team and raised packages and offerings to match those of other elite teams.

The results of Fabio’s labor are beginning to show as Spurs, under his direction, have added a number of elite players, including Herbie James from Manchester City and Jude Soonsup-bell from Chelsea.

After losing a talented player in Romain Mundle, Spurs made it a point to retain top talent. By making equal offers to other teams, they were able to ensure the futures of players like Mikey Moore and Callum Olusesi, who are highly sought after by the elite clubs.

The Spurs academy youngsters really won the U17 and U18 PL Cup double last season, despite experiencing relegation.

I’m going to highlight 7 current academy players who should be making some form of impact in the first-team squad whether that’s through rotational integration or starting roles.

Callum Olusesi (16) 

The highly regarded midfielder of Nigerian descent had his contract extended by Spurs after the team defeated Manchester United. Lambeth-born Olusesi has tied for the England U17 team after garnering an astounding seven caps thus far. The dynamic midfielder was singled out for future success by former Tottenham youth coach Yaya Toure, who described him as a “top grade” player for his age group.

Olusesi played a significant role in Spurs’ U17 and U18 Cup winning teams last season. He also won the Montagu Cup with the England U16s.

I envisage Olusesi’s future to be fruitful, he’ll complete this season at Hotspur way with the potential to make some U21 appearances too, next year he should be more fully integrated in the U21s and by the time 2025/26 comes around, either he’ll go on a significant championship loan or gain some minutes in the cups, one to watch.

He’s magic, Olusesi, his dribbles are fast and mazy! He’s magic, Olusesi, he drives the opposition crazy!

Herbie James (16) 

The youthful Herbie James, who was signed from the Manchester City academy, is from Macclesfield and excels at playing on the wing. The 2006-born winger is a black belt in karate and a resident of the Bahamas. James, who inked a big three-year deal, demonstrates the Academy’s newfound perspective on luring and keeping talent in the wake of Paratici’s salary hike.

James signed with Spurs on a free transfer after the team repelled interest from Everton and Wolves. He made his debut for the U18s against Norwich, winning 4-0, coming off the bench. Because of his versatility and motivated nature, I envision James making good development in the academy before making his first-team debut in a cup game the following season. When the 2025–2026 season arrives, he will be a significant rotational option on the flank.

Even if that competition may be a little too soon for little James, he was even cited as saying he was “looking forward to playing in the 2026 World Cup.” Still, I wouldn’t rule out his competing in the 2028 Euros on home soil at the age of 21.

Herbie James plays on either wing, he gets us on our feet and he makes the Park Lane sing!

ENFIELD, ENGLAND – MAY 07: Jamie Donley of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur U21 and West Ham United U21 at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on May 07, 2023 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Jamie Donley (18) 

Donley is a left-footed forward with versatility from Antrim, Northern Ireland. He was raised in Colchester and has been a member of Tottenham since he was eight years old, when he entered the academy. Jamie’s father, who is also an ardent Spurs supporter, has been observed to be quite encouraging to his son and his teammates.

Donley has chosen to play more for the England young setup, earning two caps for the U19s, although making a few appearances for the Northern Ireland minor levels. With 17 goal involvements in 11 outings this season, the prodigy has been in excellent form, leading the U21s to victory with 8 victories out of 8.

His movement and style of play have reminded me a lot of Harry Kane, so he’s definitely a player to look up to. I’m reminded of Kane by the way he strikes the ball, especially the cross shot that he unleashes from the edge of the box, curving hard and low into the corner.

In what should be a wonderful experience for the young player on a true match day, young Donley recently came off the bench for Spurs against Wolves, demonstrating to him what it takes to achieve at this level.

I see Donley making his Spurs debut this season with the potential to go on loan for next season in the Championship, rounding his abilities out to be ready to make a first-team impact in the 2025/26 season.

He’s in your head, in your head. Donley! Donley! Donley! ly ly ly.

Will Lankshear (18) 

In 2022, Tottenham signed a three-year contract to purchase Lankshear from Sheffield United for £2 million. The forward, who was born in Hertfordshire, has garnered praise for his prolific goal-scoring and innate poaching abilities. In 48 games for the Sheffield United minor levels, he scored 38 goals. He had “a good gift to score goals,” according to manager Paul Heckingbottom, and they were prepared to offer him a new contract. Sadly for Sheffield United, though, Spurs and Brentford started to show interest.

The young forward opted to take the step up with Spurs.

In his U18 Spurs debut, Lankshear scored twice off the bench to tie the score and even scored after just 46 seconds against Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Youth League. With ten goal involvements in ten games, his skills as a pure striker are widely recognized, and the U21s make full use of them.

Lankshear, who was once in the Arsenal academy, leads the line alongside Jamie Donley and Jude Soonsup-Bell, so he should have enough of playing time to help the U21s grow. I see Lankshear going on a productive League One or Championship loan the next year, and then he’ll be deployed as a backup striker starting in 2025–2026.

Could his pathway suggest anything close to the career of Harry Kane, Spurs will certainly hope so.

We love you Lankshear, we do, bleeding Lilywhite, you do! We love you Lankshear, we do! Oh, Lankshear we love you!

Alfie Dorrington (18) 

Dorrington, a local boy, was born in Enfield, came to play for us when he was 13 years old, and he also has international experience at the England youth levels, having represented the country from the U15s through the U19s. Due to injuries and bans to first-team defenders, the 6’4″ towering center-back—a behemoth for the young man’s age—is presently training with the first team. He even saw action on the bench with Jamie Donley during Spurs’ previous game against Wolves.

Dorrington, the captain of the Spurs U21 team, enjoys moving the ball forward and making bold, daring runs to help attackers advance upfield. Tall, quick, and most importantly, self-assured when handling the ball, these players seem to be the perfect combination of qualities Ange looks for in a defender.

Alfie should make his Spurs debut this season, and I don’t think he needs to go on loan. When Ben Davies returns to the left back position and Eric Dier eventually gets eased out, Alfie will have plenty of playing time. Ashley Phillips and Alfie Dorrington have a promising partnership going forward, especially when Luka Vuskovic joins in 2025 and gives the England young internationals some very tough competition. By the time 2025/26 rolls around, Dorrington will be a seasoned first-team player and a likely candidate for an England senior cap.

We’ve got Dorrington, Alfie Dorrington, I just don’t think you understand, big at the back, tall in attack, we’ve got Dorrington!

Alfie Devine (19)

The most high-profile player on this list, Devine is no secret. Hailing from Warrington, England, Alfie joined Spurs from Wigan in 2020 for around £300,000 and he’d go on to debut for Spurs senior team in January 2021, coming on as a substitute and scoring a goal in Spurs 5-0 FA Cup win vs Marine.

He became the youngest player to debut for Spurs at 16 years and 163 days, as well as scoring.

Devine was a member of Liverpool’s academy before being released and joining Wigan. He later left Wigan when the team went bankrupt, and Spurs signed him. The great manager Jose Mourinho is credited with praising the attacking midfielder, stating that “he [has] an instinct to appear in finishing zones to score goals.” The player possesses excellent two-footed close control.

Even though Devine’s England U16 team won player of the tournament at the Sportschain AGS Cup, his international youth career was only getting started. He started in the 2022 UEFA Euro Under-19 championship final and helped his country defeat Israel 3-1 in extra time, adding another hardware to his collection. September 2023 saw Alfie practice with the England Senior Squad as well.

Devine is currently on a fantastic loan in League One with Port Vale, where he scored three points against Oxford United in stoppage time by converting a penalty. For the last time in the club’s existence, he also scored the game-winning goal against Mansfield Town to advance Port Vale to the league cup quarterfinals. Alfie Devine is already creating history in Port Vale at the age of just 19.

I suspect Aflie to be a first-team player when he comes home next season, as a creative understudy to James Maddison.

He looks so good, he looks so fine, Alfie Devine, you’re on my mind!

Mikey Moore (16) 

The worst-kept secret in wunderkind football is the attacker who was born in Southwark. Mikey Moore is making waves for the England and Spurs young groups, garnering praise from Yaya Toure and, according to Fabrizio Romano, being pursued by various clubs throughout Europe.

Moore signed a new deal that will last until 2026 in July of this year. Since then, he has played in 14 matches for both club and nation, scoring 28 goals—including a hat-trick against Croatia U17s. Moore is the subject of intense attention from both the academy and the general public; he is now ranked among the top prospects for Football Manager 2024.

In October 2023, The Guardian recognized him as one of the top first-year scholars in the Premier League. This youthful attacking winger, who can play on both flanks and even through the middle, made his U21 debut at the age of 15, making him one of the youngest players in history. As a schoolboy, he added the U18 PL Cup to his collection after scoring a brace in the U17 PL Cup final.

Moore has something to offer the first team the following season, in my opinion, as this year is all about improving with the Spurs U21s and moving up the England Youth ranks. We haven’t been this enthused about a potential coming through the academy in a long time, and Postecoglou seems like the ideal manager to bring the 17-year-old into the team for the upcoming season.

Excellent work, Mikey, Moore, and Mikey As you score, we’ll sing!

Along with John McDermott, Wayne Burnett, Richard Allen, Pat Holland, and other unseen workers, Fabio Paratici has done a fantastic job revitalizing the academy. Finally, it appears that we will soon be able to add more accomplished graduates to Hotspur Way.

Top teams always have talent on the conveyor belt; they can either sell it for a solid profit, like Chelsea did with Livramento, City with Foden, Arsenal with Saka, and more, or integrate it like Arsenal has done with Saka, Chelsea with James, and so on.

Spurs are starting to take on a new dimension and are now competitive with other elite teams when it comes to creating alluring offers that will draw and keep the best players for Tottenham Hotspur in the future.



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