This morning Tottenham Hotspur announced that they have extended Steven Caulker's contract through 2014 and will then be joining newly promoted Swansea City on season long loan. The young central defender is one of Tottenham's best prospects and has spent the last two season on loan in League One and the Championship respectively and has impressed at each stop.
If we're being honest, Steven Caulker was never going to play a lot of games for Tottenham Hotspur this season. Even if Spurs do decide to play the kids in Europe, the Carling Cup, and some of the easier FA Cup ties, there was no way that Caulker was going to get much more than 10 or 12 appearances. That's not enough games for a developing player and even if it were, very few of those games would be against competition on par with what he would face every week in the Premier League.
Of course, Caulker's potential appearances would also have been limited by the desire to get games for Younes Kaboul, Sebastien Bassong, and Bongani Khumalo. Kaboul and Bassong especially will probably be seeing lots of playing time in Europe and the Carling Cup, given that some combination of Ledley King, Michael Dawson, and William Gallas will be the first choice defensive pairing for Spurs in the League.
Swansea's first choice defensive pairing last season was Ashley Williams and Garry Monk. Williams was named to the PFA Championship Team of the Season last year following his performances and has been the subject of transfer speculation this summer with Queen's Park Rangers being the main interested party. Monk is 32 years old and has some Premier League experience, with Southhampton in the early part of this decade, but has been a bit injury prone of late.
Neither Williams nor Monk is particularly tall, both listed as 6', and with Monk being 32 (Williams is 26 in case you were curious) the addition of the 6'3" Caulker could help the Swans against some of the bigger more powerful strikers in the Premiership. I don't expect Caulker to jump right into the first team, but 25 appearances in the league seems to be a reasonable expectation. Getting to play games against such world class strikers as Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, and Robin Van Persie will only help Caulker's development and he should be ready to contribute to Spurs in 2012.
For Tottenham Hotspur, this means that we finally seem to be doing a good job developing young players. I think we can say we failed miserably in bringing along John Bostock and some of the other young talent in recent years, Troy Archibald-Henville anyone? Tottenham have a lot of depth in the center of defense, though the quality there is certainly debatable, and with Spurs being linked with Serdar Tasci and a few other defenders there may not be enough games to go around.
While I admire Harry Redknapp and Tim Sherwood's desire to play the kids in Europe I'm not sure that's the best course of action for developing these young players. Players like Kyle Naughton, Jake Livermore, John Bostock, Dean Parrett, Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Jonathan Obika need to be playing consistently in the league, preferably in the Championship or the Premier League. Of those players, perhaps only Naughton, Livermore, and Bostock would be able to play consistently in the Premier League. The others would certainly be better fits in the Championship or, begrudgingly, League One.
I've said it before and I will say it again, Tottenham Hotspur, and English clubs in general, need to start taking the development of young players more seriously given the new squad rules that took effect at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. Having good homegrown players on your roster is going to be a boon to every club. Spurs need some of these young players to come through for them if they're going to continue to be a top six club.