When the line ups came out for Spurs’ first Premier League fixture of the 2017/18 season, it’s safe to say it did raise some eyebrows. With Kyle Walker off to Manchester City, Kieran Trippier getting injured just a week before the season began and no new right back brought in yet, most fans assumed it would be Eric Dier or Moussa Sissoko who would be slotted in the fullback position.
So when the name, ‘Kyle Walker-Peters’ was read out at St. James’ Park, there was a positive vibe among all the Spurs fans across the globe. It was a vibe which you can associate with when one of your own plays.
Having impressed head coach Mauricio Pochettino in post season tour of Asia and Australia back in May 2015, he was rewarded with a new contract in December along with Shayon Harrison and Tom Glover. Earlier that year, newly promoted Dutch club, Roda JC Kerkrade, had announced about their partnership with Spurs, built around youth development. As a result of that, in January 2016, Walker-Peters was sent on trial at the Eredevise club hoping to secure a six month loan. The move never materialised and Walker-Peters stayed at the club, appearing for the U21 side. In March 2016, he finally got his taste of senior-team squad when he was named as an unused sub in the Premier League fixture against Bournemouth at White Hart Lane.
He kept working hard and as a result, was included in the pre-season tour to Australia in July 2016 where he featured against the likes of Juventus and Atlético Madrid. A regular starter for the PL2 side, he also was named on the bench in our FA Cup ties against Aston Villa and Wycombe Wanderers. What followed was another new contract in February, earlier this year. Despite having played in all the games in pre-season tour, when Pochettino was asked whether Walker-Peters could feature against Newcastle after the Juventus game, he kind of ruled him out, insisting, “He is too young”.
The 20 year old from Edmonton, was eventually handed in a shock debut against Newcaslte having played a grand total of zero top flight minutes prior to Sunday. With Kieran Trippier out injured, he replaced his nearly namesake, Kyle Walker who has been sold to Manchester City for a staggering 50 million.
Not intimidated by the situation, he did the simple things correctly and played with the same energy, Pochettino’s men are famous for. He handled the occasional pressure (by Christian Atsu on the right side) quite well, and grew in confidence as the game went on. It was not as if he set the Premier League on fire, but he looked calm, confident and capable of playing against any Premier League opposition, which rightly earned him the Man of the Match award.
Let’s not forget he was handed in this debut because Walker was sold, Trippier was injured and Levy couldn’t secure the services of a right back. However, take no credit away where its due- he grabbed the golden opportunity with both hands and will be itching to go on the field against Chelsea on Sunday. The U20 World Cup winner with England earlier this summer said, ‘It was a dream come true’ moment for him.
His appearance against Newcastle also highlighted Tottenham and more importantly, Pochettino’s philosophy on trusting his youth players if available. A lot of players around his age from other big clubs are loaned out to lower leagues and never get the taste of first team football. However, Pochettino prefers keeping his star young players to himself and believes he could manage them better than anyone else, slowly integrating them to the senior squad. Josh Onomah may be an exception, but it can be said his faith on Walker-Peters paid off.
Whether Spurs sign a right back or not before Sunday, having Kyle Walker-Peters available for selection is a good headache to have because of his versatility to play on either flank. As someone said on Twitter-
“Pep Guardiola bought a right back for £50m to be MOTM. Pochettino coached one right back to be MOTM.”
Whether this happens week in week out remains to be seen, but Spurs fans, including myself, are happy to see another one of our own donning the Spurs jersey.
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