This could be a make-or-break year for Tottenham Hotspur’s Josh Onomah. After a quiet season for Spurs last year where he made only five Premier League appearances, the 20-year old Spurs academy graduate is hoping for a bigger role after a stellar summer with England’s youth setup.
Onomah was a key member of the England U20 squad that won the World Cup in South Korea this summer, and although he missed the semifinal after a harsh sending off, he was one of the bright spots along with his fellow Tottenham teammate Kyle Walker-Peters. In comments ahead of Spurs’ preseason match against PSG in Orlando, Onomah said that his international matches this summer gave him confidence that he can crack further into Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino’s first team plans this season.
“I think the World Cup has helped with that. The experiences in South Korea have helped me to become a better player mentally and physically. I feel like it's the fittest I've been physically and mentally. I feel I'm ready for any challenges that come my way.
"When I've played in a Spurs shirt, I haven't really been at my best. To go away in the summer and show what I'm capable of doing is something I'm proud of and I look forward to doing it in a Spurs shirt.”
Onomah played as a central box-to-box midfielder for England, and did very well against his U20 peers in this summer’s competition, but that’s not where he’s normally been deployed by Mauricio Pochettino for Spurs. Generally, Onomah has been pushed farther forward, and often out wide.
Onomah isn’t picky, but he did say that he’s more comfortable in a deeper, more central role in midfield, and that Mousa Dembele has been a source of inspiration for him.
"I'll play anywhere, as long as I'm playing football. Since I was young, I've been playing that [inside] role. I haven't played it for a long time so for the England manager to trust me there gave me great confidence as well. It's good to play there, and hopefully I can play there.
"But with me, because I'm quite a versatile player and can do a number of things, as long as I'm on the pitch playing for Tottenham, I feel that's the main thing.
"A great example [for me] is Mousa Dembele. Earlier in his career, he started out wide but when he got older he started playing central and deeper. If he can do it, I believe that I can as well.
"Since I've been training with the first team from 14 or 15, he's always been a role model. He's always spoken to me and I like the way he plays. I feel there's some similarities there."
In last night’s match against PSG, Onomah was again pushed higher and wide, starting the match and playing the first 45 as a right sided attacking midfielder. He had a relatively quiet match and didn’t make an especially big impact on Spurs’ offense, but neither did he damage his chances of an increased role in the Premier League. It’s very likely that he’ll get further chances to shine in Spurs’ upcoming International Champions Cup matches against Roma on Tuesday, and against former teammate Kyle Walker and Manchester City on Saturday, January 29.
“The gaffer has said that in training: If you’re the best players… the best players in training will play. And for a manager to say that – that it doesn't matter about age or anything – that gives us great confidence as young academy players. We’ve seen the likes of Harry Kane, who’s gone all the way up, so it’s just down to us really.”