Tottenham Hotspur teenager Marcus Edwards made his first start of the season amid calls from many supporters for Mauricio Pochettino to give him a chance in the first team set-up.
The hype surrounding the 18-year-old was already growing last season before the Spurs boss uttered his now infamous Lionel Messi quote.
“His qualities, it’s only looks – his body and the way that he plays – remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi,” said Pochettino early in the campaign.
He followed that up the next month with: “Maybe if Marcus Edwards were born in Brazil or Argentina, today he would be one of the most interesting prospects in football in the world. Maybe all the big teams would be fighting to buy him, but he is at Tottenham, he is in England and he is still a kid.”
After impressing in a 15 minute cameo on his debut in the EFL Cup at White Hart Lane against Gillingham, including a jinking run and shot that was tipped over the crossbar, it all went a bit wrong for the youngster.
He picked up a long term ankle ligament injury and there were doubt behind the scenes at to whether he would sign his first professional deal, which was on offer at the club.
Edwards struggled to get back near the first team picture and there was speculation about him getting ahead of himself behind the scenes and fears that someone might swoop for his services.
He finally ended those rumours by signing his new deal last month after impressing during cameos for England at the U19 European Championships.
Despite that Edwards missed out on the first team’s tour of the USA and despite a substitute appearance in the opening Premier League 2 match of the season he was left out of the U23s squad for the Checkatrade Trophy draw at Luton Town as he was not deemed fit enough.
Monday marked his first start of the season in the Premier League 2 match against West Ham United at Tottenham’s Hotspur Way training ground.
Edwards put in the kind of performance he’s become known for at the level. There are times when he looks a level above everyone on the pitch and makes dribbling seem easy.
That was perfectly displayed when he jinked into the Hammers’ box and was tripped to earn his side a penalty. He picked the ball straight up and calmly slotted home the spot kick.
As Spurs were rampant in the first half so Edwards was instrumental at times, linking up play and using the ball well and bringing others into play. He drifted around in an almost free role trying to make things happen.
However, when things didn’t go so well for Tottenham – most of the second half as they threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 – Edwards struggled to up his game to change things for his team-mates.
His shooting was a little off, missing presentable chances in both halves with the one in the second period coming from a very good position yet he blazed over the crossbar.
The young midfielder got 90 minutes under his belt though which will be vital for him to get his campaign up and running and he showed enough moments on the ball to suggest his ankle injury has not left any lingering effects.
So is Marcus Edwards ready for first team football under Mauricio Pochettino? The answer is probably no, not right now.
Some supporters have been calling for him to be brought on to the bench at least with the lack of attacking options available to Pochettino. However, Edwards is just not that high up the pecking order right now.
He is still training with both the first team and Wayne Burnett’s development squad, rather than exclusively with the first team as the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters are now doing.
Still slight, Edwards can get muscled out of U23 matches for periods which means the Premier League will be like being thrown into the lions’ den. He needs to work on his strength and keep his head down and work hard in the development squad matches.
Pochettino was not watching this particular U23 match, but if he hears good things from Burnett then he will no doubt wander down from his office in the adjacent building to take in the next match at Hotspur Way.
Edwards’ best chance of first team minutes will be in the EFL Cup again this season, as Pochettino has admitted that is not a priority for him, while the Checkatrade Trophy will provide another chance to play in front of a decent crowd, although it will not count as a senior appearance for Spurs.
Patience is going to be a virtue with Edwards, but can he and the fans wait that long? Signings during the remaining ten days of the transfer window are likely to push him further down the pecking order at Tottenham.
In order to catch Pochettino’s eye again, the talented teenager needs to impress with any chances he gets at any level.