Of all the potential interviews of Tottenham Hotspur players that could have come out this summer, an interview with Marcus Edwards was the one I didn’t know I needed. Edwards, one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the Tottenham academy since Ledley King, was in the midst of a very rough stretch at the club before his season-long loan at Excelsior Rotterdam in the Eredivisie this past season.
Edwards had been held up as an exquisitely talented footballer, but one dogged by accusations personality problems. Mauricio Pochettino had publicly compared him to Lionel Messi, before writing in his book “Brave New World” that Edwards had “authority and behavioral problems.”
That’s why the Excelsior loan, unequivocally a success, was so important this season. It also set the stage for this interview with Jack Pitt-Brooke in the Independent, where Edwards talks about his struggles, his perception by the soccerati, and why he thinks he’s been misunderstood.
“Yeah, I think [I’m misunderstood], I think some people don’t understand me. I don’t know, I think maybe it’s the way I talk. I think that is how it is in football.”
This is Edwards’ first major interview with a British paper, and it shows. The soft-spoken nature of his personality comes through in the way the article is written — there are very few long blocks of quotable material. You get the sense that Edwards isn’t loquacious, that he speaks in short sentences, and perhaps needs some coaxing to get his words out.
But Edwards isn’t afraid to admit that he was immature and resistant to authority while a member of Tottenham’s academy, and that he was at times hesitant to take the advice of the Spurs coaching staff with regard to things like tracking back and playing defense. The comments about him in Pochettino’s book also caused a rift between him and the Spurs boss that may not be fully healed.
Things came to a head during his terrible loan experience at Norwich City under Daniel Farke in the Championship in 2017-18, one that led to only three appearances and eventually saw him return to Spurs early. Edwards says that there are reasons why things didn’t go well — he was carrying a small injury for most of the loan and admitted that he did get “frustrated” towards the end — but that the perception of his Norwich experience wasn’t the full story.
“I think there were loads of things with that one. I had a back injury when I went there. I was so eager to go, I just got through the clearance training [which is] to see if you’re fit. But when I got there, and trained, I felt my back. I was in and out of training for two or three months. So that’s the main reason.
“I think maybe it was a bit unfair. The whole situation that happened at Norwich, it already played onto what Pochettino said. Even though I was definitely a lot younger then, that’s when I was growing up. It was a big misunderstanding.
That’s why the past season in the Eredivisie was so important to him — Edwards talks about what a positive experience it was to be an important part of a team that needed him, to play regular first team football, and to have coaches and players tell him that he’s a good player and encourage him to keep going.
“I definitely think I’ve got a better attitude now. I’m just ready to kick on with my career. I think I needed this year. I know I’m a good player, I know I can do what I want to do. It has made me have a clear vision of what I want in football. I just want to get as high up to the top level as I can.”
The interview does its best to cast Marcus in a positive light, and highlight the personal growth that he has undergone over the past year. That’s good. But make no mistake — Edwards’ interview feels more like something designed by his agent and he to reform his image outside of north London. One would imagine that those people of importance at Tottenham Hotspur would already know about Edwards attitude and maturity change in Rotterdam this season. They’ve watched him for a year now. Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t need an interview in the Independent to convince him of whether Edwards needs another chance at Spurs next season.
Instead, I get the sense that this interview is the first step towards Edwards leaving the club on a permanent basis this summer. Other clubs at Edwards’ level may have been frightened off by the background reports of his past immaturity, and the disastrous Norwich loan. This interview is Edwards saying “I’m here, I’ve grown up, please come give me a chance,” and it’s not directed at the Tottenham coaching staff.
I hope I’m wrong. I think Edwards has the skills to be an asset in Mauricio Pochettino’s system, especially in that “tricky dribbly wide player” role that Pochettino has seemed to desire for years and has never gotten right. But you have to wonder whether this interview suggests more that Pochettino’s mind is already made up and that Edwards’ future lies elsewhere. If so, that’s a shame, but it comes down to the decisions that Edwards made at a critical time in his football and personal development.
We’re going to know pretty soon whether Edwards will be given a chance in Pochettino’s revamped Spurs team. With one season left on his current contract, he’ll either sign a new contract and find a place in a Champions League caliber team, or he’ll be sold to another club. Either way, I’ll be following his career with great interest.