Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing and ranking the top 15 youth prospects at Tottenham Hotspur to see which players have the best potential to follow players like Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, and Nabil Bentaleb into the Tottenham first team. The rules for inclusion are as follows:
- The player had to be 21 or under on January 1, 2015
- The player cannot have seen significant match time with Tottenham's first team
Next on our list is 16 year-old schoolboy sensation Kazaiah Sterling.
Who is he?
Kazaiah Sterling came on most supporters' radars after the first leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Chelsea. Sterling came off the bench in the nationally-televised youth cup match to score a crucial second goal and put Spurs in the driver's seat ahead of the second leg (which we promptly lost). His story gained traction not only because of what happened on the pitch, but what happened off it. While most of his teammates and opposition are already full-time pros in their respective Academies, Sterling, only 16, spent the day at school before putting Chelsea to the sword.
What can he do?
Sterling may still be a few years away from getting a chance with the first team, but he's certainly one to keep an eye on for the future. The pacy forward can play all across the front line and looks just as comfortable playing wide as he does up top. His finishing looked a little wayward earlier in the season, but he's grown more and more composed as he's been given more opportunities. He's a tireless runner with strong off the ball movement across the front line, and coupled with his lightning pace he's quite good at getting in behind defenses. He can still be overly selfish at times and often fails to pick his head up when he's running with the ball, but at 16 he has plenty of time to work on his awareness and team play.
This season has been a big step up for Sterling. After making the jump from the U-16s in October, the forward has become a regular contributor to the U-18 side. Besides his cameo against Chelsea, his stand-out performance this year came in a 4-1 demolition of Man City where he scored two, won a penalty, and had a third goal disallowed.
He also made his debut for the England U-17s in the Algarve Tournament in February where he played as a striker and scored on his debut against hosts Portugal. His performance there earned him a spot for the U-17 European Championship qualifiers, although he unfortunately missed the cut to go to the finals in May.
Where can he go?
At only 16, it's tough to gauge how exactly a player's progress will go. There's still so many years before he'll have a shot with the first team and there are so many more things along the way that can go wrong than can go right.
That said, he's well on track for a bright future. A lot of young players look really great against their peers--either because they've had an early growth spurt or developed just ahead of their age curve--but then struggle against more experienced and physical older players who won't be pushed around the same way. Sterling so far has demonstrated none of these concerns. Like Josh Onomah, Harry Winks, and Harry Kane before him, despite playing with kids two years older than he is he never looks out of place or overmatched.
Expect to see him take a more important rule in the U-18 side next year and hopefully kick on to working with the U-21s. From there, it's anyone's guess. But I expect big things from Sterling.