Tottenham Hotspur is one of the few clubs that is seemingly not averse to plumbing the depths of lower league football to look for promising young talent. After all, good players don't just spring from the Premier League football academies, though it would at times seem so. Take this story, for example: The Daily Mail is reporting that Spurs are close to agreeing for a deal to sign 17 year old midfielder Shilow Tracey from non-league club Ebbsfleet United.
Tracey's been linked to Spurs for a little while now, and the club gave Tracey what was apparently a very successful trial back in October. He's a box-to-box midfielder who can also play in the hole. While Tracey is apparently being tracked by a number of clubs, Ebbsfleet vice-chairman Peter Varney seemed pretty keen on his top player signing for Tottenham.
"A number of Premier League clubs have come in for Shilow but we don't want him to become a commodity, touted around."
"If Tottenham decided to take him it would be a good fit, as he is a London boy. They wanted to take him on tour to have a closer look at him."
I can't pretend I know a whole lot about Tracey, as I don't watch a lot of Vanarama National League South football. It's difficult even to find stats on him, as he hasn't yet cracked the Ebbsfleet first team, but he's reportedly playing well in the youth ranks and is considered one of the best promising young talents in the non-league system. The Mail says he played with Spurs' academy team on a Florida tour, scoring twice.
No transfer fee is discussed in the Mail article, so it's important to remember that this is still only a rumor. However, considering the quotes from Varney and the previous trial, I'd bet that this is a thing.
This is one of the advantages of Spurs being a club with a demonstrable record of attracting and developing young talent: once other players see people like Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Tom Carroll, Ryan Mason, etc. coming through and being successful, it makes it more likely that other promising youngsters will want to sign with the program.
Youth development is a total crap shoot. I have no idea how good Tracey is or whether he has any shot of cracking the Spurs first team, but if Tottenham does land him, it's likely going to be for stupid cheap money and totally worth a flyer. At worst he's Zeki Fryers – a player we can probably flip for a small profit in a couple years. And who knows, he could be Dele Alli 2.0.