Spurs playing on a Thursday night is a pain isn’t it. Yes – but no.
The Europa League is the ‘reward’ for finishing the Premier League in 5th place or winning a domestic cup, but what does our ‘reward’ provide us with? An energy-sapping away match in the most far-flung corners of Europe, or failing that, a home match against a team noone’s ever heard of for whom this single game feels like a cup final.
It’s a drain on resources. It’s not entertaining. The standard of football is awful. And it’s only dawned on me this year – I LOVE IT!
The reason I love it, is the way we’ve used it. We’ve taken a competition that is renowned for causing teams problems throughout a season and used it as a playground. A place we can blood our youth and give them experience, something that has only begun to tell in the last few years;
Let’s have a look at some of our young players who were given their first team debuts in the UEFA Cup/Europa League:
Ryan Mason - 27 November 2008 – UEFA Cup group stage.
Harry Kane - 25 August 2011 – Europa League Qualifier against Hearts.
Tom Carroll – 25 August 2011 - Europa League Qualifier against Hearts.
Alex Pritchard - 15 September 2011 - Europa League group stage against PAOK FC .
Steven Caulker - 20 September 2012 – Europa League group stage against Lazio.
Andros Townsend – 22 August 2013 - Europa League play-off against Dinamo Tbilisi.
Shaquile Coulthirst – 12 December 2013 – Europa League group match against Anzhi Makhachkala.
Harry Winks - 27 November 2014 – Europa League group stage FK Partizan.
Even in my limited research I’ve found eight players who have developed an incredible amount in the last few years (some obviously more than others) and the majority now enjoying first-team football in one way or another.
It just goes to show how the experience they’ve gained, especially in a tough competition in some tough atmospheres, has helped them.
This has been a policy the club has stuck by right from the early Redknapp days – never one to pander to the media suggesting weak team selections - Harry saw the competition as a pain and wanted to use it as a chance to bring in youth players gaining valuable experience. And two years later, without the extra distraction, we found ourselves in the Champions League. Albeit it was a one-off but since then we’ve been prolific in bringing through youth players and them holding their own in the first team (and other Premier League first teams).
This is a credit to the club. In a league where it’s not unusual to see a club pay waaaay over the odds for an average player or look abroad for a cheaper deal – to bring youth through in this way is commendable.
So enjoy your Thursday nights. Look forward to seeing the future and the potential that could be the next star scoring 30 goals-a-season in a few years. We’re embracing the competition in our own way – Europa League, Tottenham Hotspur have got your number!
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