Scouting Tottenham Hotspur's Rising Star Shayon Harrison

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2016

Shayon Harrison in action during a match between the under-21 sides of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool last October.
Shayon Harrison in action during a match between the under-21 sides of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool last October.Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino has the patience of a saint. Throughout the last two transfer windows he has dealt with repeated, and frankly tedious, questions about his club's forward options (or the perceived lack thereof).

At the close of the recent winter window, Pochettino calmly looked to make Tottenham's position clear with a detailed explanation of their strategy in the pre-Watford press conference. One in which he reiterated his short-term faith in the "very good balance" of his squad, while also outlining the need for careful planning in a period of off-field upheaval for the club.

Shayon Harrison on his way to the White Hart Lane changing room ahead of Tottenham's FA Cup meeting with Crystal Palace.
Shayon Harrison on his way to the White Hart Lane changing room ahead of Tottenham's FA Cup meeting with Crystal Palace.Clive Rose/Getty Images

Talking about the academy options he wants to continue developing with an eye on augmenting the first-team, Pochettino again brought up the name of Shayon Harrison.

"After we have younger [players] that train with us like Shayon, and in behind I tell you about [Kazaiah] Sterling and different players," he said about the junior talent backing up his more senior performers. "We need to give the chance to believe in the youngsters."

The Argentinian previously mentioned both the striker, 18, and his fellow youth-team attacker Sterling in an earlier presser (that intended diagramming as to why Spurs were not pursuing a new forward at all costs obviously did not take on board).

Just about any other manager listing an untried teenager as a possible alternative to top scorer and England international Harry Kane would have sounded desperate. But Pochettino's faith in players like Kane is why the mention felt so substantial.

Another to be backed by the boss lately—and more pertinently in relation to Harrison—is Josh Onomah. The precocious midfielder made his 14th appearance of the season in Tottenham's FA Cup fifth-round exit to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Harrison and Harry Winks were selected to help the England squad train when they were based at the Hotspur Way training ground last November.
Harrison and Harry Winks were selected to help the England squad train when they were based at the Hotspur Way training ground last November.JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

It was arguably the 18-year-old's best performance yet in his fledgling senior career. He continued to push on even after his team-mates' efforts dropped, a nimble conduit for some of their more threatening advances throughout.

Onomah's use has reinforced Pochettino's willingness to promote from within. There is evidence (albeit not necessarily cast-iron) beyond the press conference references of him to suggest Harrison is one of the next in line if he progresses sufficiently. Something his confirmed training with the senior squad should help.

Though not included in the matchday squad for Palace, he was part of the larger group. Prior to those selected beginning their warm-up, he and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers could be seen doing training drills and running exercises.

Late last year, Harrison was also part of the travelling party for Tottenham's UEFA Europa League win out in Qarabag (below):

Opting to give the precocious talent this experience rather than someone like the older academy forward Shaquile Coulthirst (subsequently sold to Peterborough United in January) was no small thing. Though not ultimately called upon, it gave an early indicator Pochettino was keeping an eye on Harrison.

Around the same time, he also joined midfielder Harry Winks in helping make up the numbers for the England squad when they trained at the Hotspur Way training ground. In December, Harrison signed a new contract at Tottenham.

While the first team possibly beckons for Harrison, for now the focus is continuing to hone his game. A style that combines penalty-box agility and impressive finishing instincts with confident approach play, too.

Last season's FA Youth Cup semi-final with Chelsea (video above) certainly showed the former. Harrison bookended the 5-2 second-leg defeat with an excellent on-the-turn volley and a well-placed penalty.

He scored 15 times in 2014-15 for Spurs' under-18 side. Another double came in a more joyful outingthe below 2-1 win over Southampton.

This writer's (belated) first real noticing of the youth team hopeful was in a Spurs XI 3-2 friendly loss at Peterborough last July. Harrison replaced Sterling at half-time, the smaller frontman finding things tough against the more experienced Posh defence.

The substitute's comfort dropping deep to receive possession made it more difficult for Peterborough to impose themselves on him. Far from just staying out of reach, though, Harrison looked to put the home side on their heels.

The approach paid off when he took a Luke Amos pass inside and fired a stinging shot through the fingertips of former-Spur Ben Alnwick (3:12 mark in the video below). A similar advance saw him put Ismail Azzaoui into the box for Spurs' second.

Following on from initial experiences last season, Harrison has been a regular fixture for the under-21s in 2015-16 when available.

Only injury over the turn of the year has derailed his momentum. A period that, perhaps not coincidentally, coincided with a lean spell for the team (though a porous defence conceding 15 in six games did not help).

Altogether he has netted six times in 12 appearances and has not looked out of place. A goal each from his braces in wins over Leicester City and Chelsea can be seen in Tottenham-produced top five under-21 goals of the season up until Christmas.

"It’s definitely a big jump from under-18s to under-21s football, it’s more of a men’s game at the higher level, but I’m delighted with the chance to test myself against bigger centre-halves, more difficult opponents and hopefully I can just keep getting better and better each time," he told Spurs' official website in December.

That admittance of the challenges youth-team football still holds should put the brakes on talk of a real senior introduction for the time being (barring catastrophic injuries anyway).

The intelligent Harrison has potential. The indications are he will, with time, be given every opportunity to fulfill it.

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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