Tottenham Hotspur Continue To Make the Most of English Football's Loan System

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Tottenham Hotspur Continue To Make the Most of English Football's Loan System
Pete Norton/Getty Images
Tottenham midfielder Massimo Luongo got his first experience of senior football on loan at Ipswich Town and Swindon Town (pictured) last season.

Flying under the radar of much of the Tottenham-related transfer scuttlebutt has been the departure on loan of a few of the club's promising youngsters.

Last week Grant Hall and Massimo Luongo joined Swindon Town on loan for the season. On Tuesday, Alex Pritchard also made the year-long move to the County Ground.

Though there is uncertainty surrounding some aspects of the Spurs' squad, the Premier League outfit's approach to managing their young talent has been clearly defined for a while now.

In particular, the loan system has come to play an important part in attempting to ready players for the first team.

June 2009 saw a key development here, as Spurs announced their decision not to enter a reserve team in the Premier Reserve League. They explained their vision in a statement on the club's website:

"The Club is committed to aiding the development of our players within the Professional and Academy squads in the best way possible."

"It is felt it would be of greater benefit providing our 18 to 21-year-old players with a tailor-made games programme, which includes experiencing competitive football with loan transfers, tournaments and private friendly fixtures that allows greater flexibility around the First Team's fixture schedule."

Phil Cole/Getty Images
Jake Livermore made the first team at Spurs after several spells out on loan.

The "private friendly fixtures" were more in mind for senior players returning from injury, since they could no longer take in a reserve league outing or two to regain match fitness. The tournaments mentioned were good experiences for the young players making their way up the ranks, but not especially conducive markers of development.

Loaning players out was not a new strategy for the club.

For example, current Spurs midfielder Jake Livermore—then aged 19—had already spent time with Milton Keynes Dons, and another spell at Crewe Alexandra had ended before it really began, after he suffered a broken leg during preseason 2008.

Livermore had moved past the age-group teams by then. Even if reserve football had been an option, he would have been loaned out again anyway. Just now, it formed a greater part of his development.

Spurs used the system as a testing ground for players whom they held hopes for, but did not want to risk throwing into their own first team (and probably could not find the space to anyway). A loan move became a vital showcase for the club's young players, perhaps even more so than at other top-flight clubs.

Some, like Livermore, Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend, had their ups and downs, but showed enough promise that they have since become involved in the senior squad. John Bostock and Dean Parrett were among others who struggled to make a sufficient enough impression, and have since been released.

The implementation of the Elite Player Performance Plan last year saw the introduction of the Under 21 Premier League—essentially a reserve league with greater emphasis placed on youth development.

Tottenham rejoined the fold and enjoyed a fine opening campaign, rising to the top of both of their league stages before losing the competition's final to Manchester United. In addition, the NextGen Series offered a chance to compete on a European stage, providing a supplementary testing ground for emerging teenagers at Spurs.

Loaning out players has continued to form a big part of the club's plans for their youngsters, though.

Last season saw Townsend and Harry Kane sent to fellow Premier League clubs, while Luongo and Pritchard were among the younger men getting their first taste of league football altogether.

Perhaps it has coincided with an improvement in the standard of young players Tottenham are currently producing. But it seems that their greater reliance on sending them out for experience is starting to pay off for the club and players alike.

Even those not wanted by Spurs have found teams as a result of their loan experiences—Troy Archibald-Henville and Nathan Byrne joined Exeter City and Swindon respectively after spells there.

Over the course of the summer, a few more are likely to be sent out for experience. Cristian Ceballos, Shaquile Coulthirst and Kenneth McEvoy were among those who impressed at youth level last season, and may be next to test their talent in the competitive environment of the Football League.

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