Monday, August 01, 2011

Tottenham Players from the Milk Cup to Watch in Season 2011-12

Tottenham Hotspur have a policy when competing in youth tournaments like the Northern Ireland Milk Cup of sending a squad of mixed age players where many will be facing opponents who are older than themselves.  This allows the young Tottenham players to test themselves against players who may be physically stronger and have more experience than them.  The objective is not to win the tournament at all costs by sending out a team with the best Academy players in that age group which Tottenham Hotspur have available but to see how the young players cope and develop while facing bigger, stronger opponents.

The Milk Cup has an Under-17 age limit for boys born on or after 1st January, 1994.
Speaking after the Final against South Coast Strikers to the THFC Official web-site, Assistant Academy manager, Brian Klug, acknowledged that Spurs had involved younger players in the tournament.
"It was an even game and a good test against a strong team that included Under-17 internationals and reached the final two years ago.  Overall, it's been a good tournament for us. We're by far the youngest team in the Premier section and the lads have come out of it with a lot of credit." 

After the hard fought victory over Cherry Orchard, the previous evening he commented,  

"Cherry Orchard were made up mainly of Under-17 players, whereas we fielded two Under-15s, so we have to be happy."

Five of Spurs 18 players had played in the 2010 tournament - Oliver Modeste, Freddy Champion, Victor Zapata-Caicedo, Kenneth McEvoy and Samuel Smith - and it was obvious that they had benefitted from another year in the Academy set-up.   They were stronger and much more confident and involved in the play, taking greater responsibility in the team.

Kenneth McEvoy caught the eye for two reasons last week - a photograph on the club web-site which made him look uncannily like Gareth Bale and then on the same evening, he scored the two excellent goals which enabled the team to defeat Co. Fermanagh.  The first was a strong header from a free-kick while the second was a lovely solo effort as he cut in from the right, beating three men before powering his shot past the keeper.  

These goals and the style of them made life at the Milk Cup more difficult for him because he became a marked man whom the other teams knew was a danger.  In the Milk Cup he played mainly on the right side of midfield using his pace and strength to run at defenders to create goal scoring opportunities for himself and others.  In the opening match against Otaga he showed his creativity by providing crosses from the right, one of which caused a defender to put the ball into his own net.  Against South Coast Strikers it was his run that brought about the penalty from which Spurs equalised as the defenders up-ended him in the penalty area.  On other occasions he was unceremoniously brought down as defenders endeavoured to stop him from creating any further danger.  In the final he appeared to have been given a more forward role as he played alongside Zapata-Caicedo who had played as the lone striker in previous matches.

Freddie Champion is a hard working midfield player with good control and passing skills.  He captained the side, playing in a central midfield role although all the midfielders covered right across the pitch.  He could get forward as well as cover in front of the defence.

Oliver Modeste played on the left side of central defence and was very composed and commanding in his play.  He has good control and a good range of passing both long and short.  He is very capable of picking out a pass from open play or a free-kick to the lone striker.  He covered well in defence and his heading was good although he isn't the tallest of defenders.  He was always looking to receive the ball in order to start the team playing again.  The defence looked much more secure when he was playing.

Dominic Ball started all five games in the tournament, the only Spurs player to do that - his only rest was being substituted for the final eighteen minutes in the third match.  He scored twice in the opening match and put Spurs ahead in the Final against South Coast Strikers with a delightful curled free-kick.  He then scored the first penalty in the shoot-out to put Spurs on the road to victory.  A strong player, with pace, he played across the midfield and was equally comfortable pushing forward into the penalty area as he showed with his goals against Otaga or playing in front of the defence and carrying out defensive duties.

Of local, Northern Ireland interest, Dominic and his older brother, Matthew were both playing in the competition this year.  Dominic is eligible to play for Northern Ireland as his mother was born in Belfast and his brother represented his country in the Elite Section.  On the first evening when Dominic scored his two goals, Matthew scored the opening goal for Northern Ireland as the Under-19 side drew with Denmark.

Dominic is a confident player who confidently took the penalty he won in the match against Otaga and stepped forward to score in the penalty shoot-out in the final.  Hopefully, Northern Ireland will be represented by the two Ball brothers in the not too distant future. 

Ruben Lameires is a very skilful and confident player.  He has quick feet and was a constant threat to the opposition.  He played on the left but was given freedom to roam across the pitch and with his quick control and turns he was frequently brought down by defenders.  

He created a number of the goals during the week - setting up Ball to progress into the area for the penalty on the opening night and the fourth came from a rebound from his shot which had been blocked.  In the second game his free-kick was headed home by McEvoy to start Spurs' recovery and in the third game he confidently scored the penalty as Spurs drew level against South Coast Strikers.  In that game he was a constant threat as he teased the defenders with his skills.  In the fourth game he was made Captain and was given a more central role which increased his involvement in the game.  He scored the first goal in the opening minutes shooting in off the post after a forward run past defenders had taken him into the penalty area.  He dictated much of the play through that game and also had the responsibility for taking most of the corners and free-kicks.  The final game was perhaps the one where he had least influence but he still worked hard and covered back to defend when the Strikers were putting Spurs under increasing pressure in the second half.  He also stepped forward to score the third penalty of the shoot-out.

He is a lightly built player but has bundles of confidence and enthusiasm and is a very skilful player.

Grant Ward started as an attacking full back playing on the left.  However, as the games progressed he as often moved forward into midfield where his hard running and shooting was more effective.  In the final game he started in midfield and was constantly looking to get into a position to shoot at goal and his running from deep was a feature of his and the team's play.   Throughout the tournament he frequently got himself forward, even from full-back, into a shooting position only to be thwarted by the goalkeeper, the woodwork or a defender's last ditch block.  He runs with pace and he tackles back to cover danger and works hard with good inter-passing.  He was the fourth penalty taker in the Final and he scored confidently.

It will be interesting to see watch these players in the Academy team this season to see if they can progress as players from the 2010 Milk Cup squad have done in the season past - Laste Dombaxe, Daniel  Day, Ramil Sheriff, Kevin Stewart, James Yeboah, Lee Angol, Ronnie Hawkins and Alexander McQueen.

To keep further up-dated with the progress these players and all of the Academy players take a look at Wind's excellent blog:

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