DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES: EUROPE VS. U.S. (PART 4)

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The Premier League is home to some brilliant youth academies. From Manchester United, who produced the superb Class of ‘92 and the likes of Tom Cleverley, Adnan Januzaj, Ryan Shawcross, Danny Drinkwater and Danny Welbeck since, to West Ham, nicknamed ‘The Academy of Football’ due to the number of top players that started their careers with the London club.

1However, with academies taking centre stage, due to the introduction of Financial Fair Play rules across Europe, a number of clubs have invested heavily in creating their own production lines worthy of rivaling the very best set-ups on the continent. One such club is Tottenham Hotspur, who had no less than five players in England’s 23-man squad for the 2016 European Championship.

Until recently, Arsenal and Chelsea had cemented their place as the best two clubs in London, which therefore handed them the pick of promising talent, leaving Tottenham to pick up the scraps. However, since splashing out a cool £30 million on a new, state-of-the-art training centre back in 2012, Tottenham have led the way in youth production, with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli developing into world class players.

10The decision to give their rivals a head start seemingly worked in the club’s favour, as they were able to see what methods worked and which didn’t, allowing them to piece together the perfect set-up with elements from some of the best academies out there.

“I believe this is the best facility of its kind in the world,” club chairman Daniel Levy stated upon unveiling the project. “We have spent five years developing it, we’ve been to virtually every major facility around the world and hopefully we have taken the best parts from those facilities.”

9What’s striking about the Tottenham Hotspur academy is the sheer amount of staff employed by the club, solely to aid the development of their youngsters. There are 13 standard coaches, as well as three specific goalkeeping coaches, meaning that each and every player get plenty of 1-on-1 training. With just six goalkeepers on the books, including the two in the club’s Development Squad, the shot-stopper prospects are particularly well looked after.

Although, with the brilliant Hugo Lloris between the sticks and the excellent Michel Vorm stepping in as his formidable number two, it will be a difficult task for a youth goalkeeper to snatch a place in the starting line-up at Spurs. However, 20-year-old Luke McGee, who joined the Spurs academy aged 16 back in 2012, is certainly giving Vorm a run for his money.

6Part of the club’s youth development success is down to the way that they transition prospects from their development squads into the first-team. McGee spent portions of the 2015/16 season training alongside Lloris and Vorm and their experience seems to have provided him with some great experience.

Spurs’ decision to hand McGee a professional contract until 2019 suggests that they have big plans for the youngster, and, having cemented his place as third in line to the goalkeeping throne at White Hart Lane, it shouldn’t be long until the club’s investment in youth provides in the goalkeeping department, proving that their investment is producing talent in all areas of the pitch.