Danny Rose, Steven Caulker, and Adam Smith represented England at the UEFA U-21European Championship. One Tottenham Hotspur product was conspicuously missing from that tournament though. That player would be Andros Townsend, the penultimate player in our countdown of the best Tottenham Hotspur prospects.
Who is he?
Andros Townsend has been part of the Tottenham Hotspur youth setup for a long time. Joining the Academy in 2000, Townsend has risen up through the ranks to become one of the most promising young players at the Lane. The soon to be 22 year old has been marked as a player to watch at all levels, making several caps at several levels of the English youth set up. Through loan stops at Yeovil, Leyton Orient, Ipswich, Millwall, and Birmingham, Townsend has already racked up 127 professional appearances. However, his potential never truly flourished until the past six months.
Moving to Queens Park Rangers on deadline day in January, Townsend reunited with Harry Redknapp, who had been reluctant to give the young winger much run in the first team at Tottenham in his time there. However, with the situation the way it was at QPR, Townsend found the field quickly, and in twelve short appearances became the key player for a QPR team that was terrible on all fronts, outshining expensive transfer purchases and has been superstars. He put in four man of the match performances, slotted in two goals, and made a serious case to be included in the winger platoon at Tottenham next season.
What can he do?
What can't Townsend do? Townsend is comfortable on the wings of play, left and right, though naturally favors his left foot. Townsend is a fearless dribbler, not a speed demon like Aaron Lennon or Theo Walcott, he makes his runs through great control of the ball. The most intriguing thing about Townsend, and what will appeal to Andre Villas-Boas, is the comfort Townsend shows playing an inside forward position. Unlike Aaron Lennon, Townsend has shown a more proficient shot in front of goal, which could develop into something more dangerous as he gets older. This could give Townsend a position on either wing at the front of AVB's preferred 4-3-3.
On the physical side, Townsend is tall for a winger, standing at six feet and weighing 170 pounds. He's fairly pacy but by no means a sprinter, and he shows a strong ability to stay on the ball with a defender marking him tightly. In terms of his passing Townsend is above average, but by no means is this the strength of his game at the current time. He completed 78% of his passes at QPR, and he passes forward more often than he does backward, which is always a good sign. While not the strongest crosser yet, he can develop that facet of his game, and he is adept at long ball passing, a unique skill for a winger (his average pass length is 18 meters). Defensively, Townsend is nothing special, but he is decent at making interceptions during opposition build up play.
Where can he go?
This is the reason why I rated Townsend higher than Carroll. I think Townsend has a much clearer, and more important, more likely ceiling to reach as a player. With the English wing situation the way it is currently, it's only a matter of time before Townsend is able to start gaining caps at the senior level. After years of middling and rather uninteresting loans among the lower leagues of England, once Townsend got time to play at a level that valued technical skills and the winger position, he flourished. This indicates to me that not only does Townsend have a solid game that translates well to the Premier League, but that he has a large ability to grow from this point on.
Townsend showed an ability to score from the wing this half season, he showed a remarkable dribbling ability, and he showed that he isn't wasteful with the ball at the top level. Most of all, he proved that he's dangerous, and that is the best trait for a winger to have to ensure they find the field. While Tottenham has a rather stocked attacking lineup a the moment, Townsend will merit a shout off the bench and in rotation. He also, importantly, has a style of play more conducive to what Villas-Boas wants to do compared to current right wing option Aaron Lennon. If Gareth Bale moves to the middle, he also has a spot on his natural left.
While Thomas Carroll is a bright talent and one who could become great, he's a question mark. He's rarely seen and not particularly tested. Meanwhile, Townsend has been tested, to the equivalent of three full seasons, in the professional ranks, at stops that didn't play him properly, and has still come out at age 22 as a dangerous wing player with plenty of potential for growth. I can't easily make a case for where Carroll will be in five years, what his ceiling is or what he could do. I can with Townsend. At his best, I can see Townsend as a regular fixture in the England team in five years, in the first XI at Tottenham (or somewhere bigger, hard as that is to say) and considered one of the most technically gifted players England has to offer. Also important, I can see a floor for Townsend. He's a player I can't see being worse at this point than a backup or rotation option at a club like Tottenham, and at his worst I think Townsend will turn out to be an Adam Lallana type of player for a club like Southampton. This is why I think Townsend deserved #1.