Back by popular demand, Cartilage Free Captain is again reviewing and ranking the top 10 youth prospects at Tottenham Hotspur to see which players have the best potential to follow current players like Harry Kane and Harry Winks, and former Spurs players like Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason, and Andros Townsend into the Tottenham first team. The rules for inclusion are as follows:
- The player had to be 21 or under on January 1, 2017
- The player cannot have seen significant match time with Tottenham's first team
Today, we take a look at exciting midfielder Tashan Oakley-Boothe.
Who is he?
Are you ready to feel old? At just 17, Tashan Oakley-Boothe is the youngest player in our top 10. The midfielder is also the first player born in the new millennium to represent the first team.
Oakley-Boothe earned that honor by appearing in all three of the preseason games in the U.S., plus a brief cameo at Wembley against Juventus.
The youngster has played throughout the center of midfield in his brief career, at both pivot positions and even in the No. 10 role, but is probably most comfortable as a No. 8.
He played that role for an an extremely talented England side that made the final of the European Under-17 Championship. Unfortunately his tournament was cut short by a scary injury where he was knocked out for 15 minutes after suffering an elbow to the head. Thankfully he’s back and up to full strength.
What can he do?
Oakley-Boothe definitely has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in what is a stocked Tottenham academy. He made his U18s debut at just 15 and hasn’t looked remotely out of his depth the past two years. He was one of just three first-year scholars (along with Jonathan Dinzeyi and TJ Eyoma) to sign a professional contract this summer.
The player he’s most often compared to on the pitch is Mousa Dembélé. I think that might be a bit of a stretch, since Moose is such a unicorn, but Oakley-Boothe does bring some similar skills to the table. Let’s call him Dembélé-lite.
He’s not quite as tall or strong as the Belgian, but has that same ability to glide past his opponent. He’s extremely calm on the ball and doesn’t panic when pressed — he has a series of feints and spins in his locker to avoid defenders and progress the ball. His short-range passing is fine, if a little unimaginative. He’s a slightly more defensive presence than Dembélé and lacks some of the creativity Moose has around the box. He’s also not much of a goal threat, scoring just twice last season.
He’s also a little on the small side to be playing in the middle of a Premier League midfield, but of course he’s still just 17, so has plenty of time to grow.
Here are some highlights (with obligatory dodgy techno soundtrack).
Where can he go?
As far as he wants, really. He went on tour with the first team, which is obviously a good thing. I’m pretty sure the only other first-year academy player to do that under Mauricio Pochettino is Marcus Edwards, who (spoiler alert) is going to be really high on our list. He also played a surprising amount, getting more than a nominal runout in three of his four appearances.
In an absolutely ideal world, he’s the long-term successor to Dembélé. Moose is getting older and has a history of injuries. Harry Winks is a decent understudy in that position, but Dembélé plays such an integral role in the team’s success that I would be shocked if we didn’t sign a more senior backup at some point in the next few years. Depending on who that player is, it could complicate Oakley-Boothe’s path to the first XI.
Oakley-Boothe is still a few years away from seriously contributing to the first team, so perhaps that all sorts itself out before then. His versatility in midfield could earn him minutes at other positions as well.
Pochettino has a well-established policy of keeping his most prized youngsters close to home (Josh Onomah excluded), so I’d expect Oakley-Boothe to move up to the U23s next season, rather than go out on loan.