Tottenham Influence on England World Cup Squad Is Sign of Times at Club

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur will be represented at this summer's World Cup, but not by any Englishmen.

Hugo Lloris is France captain, while Paulinho is set to be a prominent part of host nation Brazil's attempts to win the tournament.

Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen are all in Belgium's squad. Nabil Bentaleb will hope to play some part for Algeria. On loan with Queens Park Rangers last season, Benoit Assou-Ekotto will spend his June representing Cameroon.

Had he been fit, Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker would almost certainly have been called up for England by Roy Hodgson.

Prior to being ruled out by injury, Andros Townsend, too, was in with a chance of making it. As it was, Hodgson did not have to decide whether to accommodate a player who had helped his side qualify, but had struggled for form in 2014. Instead, the winger will be in South America on media duty.

Even if Townsend and Walker had been available, they were the only two Spurs players likely to go to Brazil.

Occasional England contributors Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon will have been considered over the past year. But Hodgson's preference for others in defence, and Lennon's lack of form, always made their selections unlikely.

The absence of a Tottenham presence in the England squad is a reflection of the diminished importance of English players to the club these last couple of years. A notable change given how a young English core was hugely influential in the north London club becoming a consistent challenger for a top-four place over the last decade.

It was 10 years ago things began to change at Tottenham. Initially overseen by newly appointed sporting director Frank Arnesen (with Jacques Santini as his head coach), a new emphasis was put on recruiting young, often English talent.

His predecessor, David Pleat, had brought in players whose chief attribute was their potential—the likes of Simon Davies, Gary Doherty, Matthew Etherington and Anthony Gardner. The influence of managers George Graham and Glenn Hoddle was greater, though, and the latter particularly favoured experience.

Summer 2004 was a watershed. Darren Anderton, Gus Poyet and Christian Ziege departed, following the previous exits of other 30-and-over players Les Ferdinand, Steffen Freund, Teddy Sheringham and Tim Sherwood.

Pleat's final major contributions were to sign Jermain Defoe at the start of the year and agree a deal with Leeds United for Paul Robinson.

Arnesen took up the process, and while his immediate revamp of the squad also included the arrival of several foreign players, it was the purchase of English talent over the next couple of years that was to prove most significant (manager Martin Jol and Arnesen's replacement, Damien Comolli, carried on after the Dane left for Chelsea).

Sean Davis and Michael Carrick were first in after Robinson. Dawson joined the following January, with Lennon, Wayne Routledge, Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone arriving later in 2005.

The first major indicator Spurs' new policy was working came in November 2005.

Along with youth-team product Ledley King, Defoe, Carrick, Jenas and Robinson were all selected for England's friendly with Argentina (the latter three and Lennon would be selected by Sven-Goran Eriksson in his World Cup squad the following summer).

The club's official website also noted: "eight of our players will be on England duty next week, with Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon part of the Under 21 squad for the crucial European Championship play-off against France."

The club's Champions League near-miss that season further highlighted how important the English spine was becoming to the Tottenham team.

Players from abroad—the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Luka Modric—would, of course, play leading roles in that campaign and the following few years. Alterations (some forced, some not) to the squad's home-based presence would occur too—Carrick's departure to Manchester United was a blow, while King's injury problems often robbed the team of its most important player.

Testament to the continued importance of English players to the Spurs cause, though, was the presence of five players in Fabio Capello's squad for the 2010 World Cup. Dawson, Defoe, King and Lennon were joined by Peter Crouch, the quintet fresh from the club at last making the top four.

Along with Huddlestone and Jonathan Woodgate, the five would feature for Spurs in the Champions League the next season too. But it was to be the last hurrah for that generation, with then-manager Harry Redknapp already instigating the move to signing primarily foreign players.

Spurs have signed only two Englishmen since 2010 (Scott Parker and Zeki Fryers). The high price (ironically, partly driven up by the north Londoners' stance on players like Carrick) of English talent, and the comparative lack of them, has seen the club look elsewhere in their attempts to build a squad to compete with the Premier League's best.

The club have not finished lower than sixth since then, so you could argue it has not made much difference given the circumstances. For better or not, as of the end of 2013-14, the English influence on the Spurs team was a minimal one compared to years past.

The fact that there are no Tottenham players featuring in the England squad this summer could be termed a low-point in this respect. Conversely, things could be about to change.

Josh Onomah is some way from the Spurs first team, but he is the latest in a new crop of homegrown talent to feature for England at youth level, hoping to earn their chance in the Premier League.

Harry Kane joined Townsend in breaking firmly into the senior squad this year. Others such as Tom Carroll and Alex Pritchard will be seeking to replicate their peers after time away on loan this season.

Chairman Daniel Levy's talk of new manager Mauricio Pochettino's knowledge of "the right balance between experience and youth"—via Sky Sports' Jim White—suggests a desire for the club to make the most of the quality coming through.

The reality may ultimately differ, but the Tottenham team could be about to take on a more English appearance once again.


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