It’s the model that every club should aspire to but ultimately the bulk of them fail to put into practice – growing their own stars.
Manchester United were once the champions of it – and with it – with their class of 92 and their City rivals have made plenty of noise about the money visibly spent on their sprawling multi-million pound academy complex.
However, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard are pretty much the sole products currently making any impact under Jose Mourinho and City have not produced a homegrown star under Sheikh Mansour’s eight-year regime.
They’d hope that would change eventually with the money poured in – but even more cash is being thrown at the first team thus blocking the progress of anyone likely to make the step up from the academy.
While both were in the academy before the regime change – England internationals Kieran Trippier and Daniel Sturridge are examples of those who had to leave City for regular first team football – although the latter did make a few senior appearances.
So for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to proclaim that his club are looking to use their academy prospects rather than shell out £40m a go on new signings is admirable and the fact that he has a manager in Mauricio Pochettino who is capable of working within such a project adds to its credence.
Levy believes the money being spent this window is unsustainable and he will not put Tottenham‘s future at jeopardy by spending ridiculous sums on new players.
However, the Argentine sidestepped two questions about Levy’s comments during his press conference after the Roma defeat in New York. He claimed he could not answer as he had not heard the chairman’s Q&A session at the Nasdaq headquarters in Times Square as he had turned up afterwards.
That the press conference was taking place 12 hours later and one of the questions was simply about his own views on bringing young players through – to avoid the line of questioning was unusual for Pochettino.
His views on looking to the academy before the transfer market are well established. His work at Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham has showcased a brave manager willing to stake his reputation on turning to a club prospect to swim rather than sink in the heat of the moment.
The Argentine is currently the England team’s best talent identification coach of sorts – having developed a long, long list of players for the national side, most recently Trippier with many expecting Harry Winks to add to that number within the next 12 months.
However, for Pochettino to sidestep those post-match questions suggests that he understands that this summer his side cannot challenge for the title for a third time in the Premier League and compete in the Champions League with simply a new wave of academy players.
His style has always been to bring one or two prospects through with minutes here and there, allowing the older players to guide them through games in a defensive or attacking unit with experience around them.
To expect Winks, Josh Onomah, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyle Walker-Peters for example to all slip into a side together en masse is likely to end with problems.
The match against PSG with Carter-Vickers on the right of central defence and Walker-Peters alongside him showed that even just two of the prospects together was too much of a gamble as neither had the experience to know when and where to challenge and both goals conceded came from their positional inexperience.
However, against Roma, Carter-Vickers was sandwiched by Trippier on one side and Toby Alderweireld on the other, while Walker-Peters had Jan Vertonghen behind him and ready to cover.
For Spurs and these young players to flourish they need to brought through at their own pace – not forced through to prove a point.
Pochettino actually referred to it before the questions about Levy came, when asked by a local journalist about Cameron Carter-Vickers.
“He is so young and needs to improve and learn a lot,” said the manager. “He is a potential player, yes, but then we’ll see what happens in the end. He is like different players like Kyle Walker-Peters and Josh Onomah.
“Different players that are with us have the possibility to play, to learn and show their quality, but it’s important that we are talking about players that are so young and need time to settle in the first team and squad.”
That does not sound like a man ready to throw a band of youngsters into his line-up.
There is also the prospect that Spurs can bring in new signings this window without necessarily blocking the progress of those four young players.
Ross Barkley for example, who is now set to leave Everton, would not block Winks or Onomah’s path. Winks plays deeper and Onomah’s natural position is a box to box midfielder rather in the attacking slots Pochettino has used him. Barkley would likely be a replacement for Moussa Sissoko.
Winks is the one player in the young quartet expected to push on this season to become a regular and share more game time with Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama – which is why mooted moves for deeper midfielders like Adrien Silva from Sporting Lisbon were never in the pipeline.
A new central defender would not hamper Carter-Vickers’ progress and would more likely be a replacement for Kevin Wimmer, who under-performed last season when called upon and has looked shaky in both outings in the USA and seems inclined to move on for regular football.
Bringing in a more experienced right-back would perhaps hand less immediate game-time to Walker-Peters, but the flexible full-back showed against Roma – as he did with England as they won the U20 World Cup – that he can play on the left as well, making himself a useful squad member to cover both sides in two positions that are the most physically demanding under Pochettino.
The manager spoke towards the end of last season about needing more quality outside his starting XI – and the gulf between the level of substitutes available in the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Chelsea at Wembley was there for all to see.
His position will not have changed. Pochettino will give more game time to his young quartet next season, but not at the expense of a title challenge and that’s why you can expect to see at least three or four new faces arrive in the coming month at Tottenham.