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The Carty Free list of beloved, but under-potential, Tottenham players

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This is a list of our favorite players that never quite hit the heights they were supposed to at Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League 2 Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Community engagement time! Here’s a tweet that prompted a good discussion in our Carty Free Slack channel today. I thought it would prompt some good discussion in the comments as well.

We all have our favorite players that never quite measured up for whatever reason. For purposes of this discussion, let’s restrict the answers to only Tottenham Hotspur players. And in keeping with the sprit of the tweet, only Tottenham players that you loved despite not quite cutting it.

Here are mine, culled from our discussion as a staff.

Ledley King

Underachiever? Ledley? It’s strange to think so, but it’s true. Injured by Rory Delap in his Premier League debut, Ledley struggled with knee injuries and his fitness the rest of his career. He was a marvelous player — very possibly the best Spurs defender in the modern era — but you have to wonder just how much more amazing he could’ve been if he’d been healthy. Ledley knew it too: “It was probably most frustrating for the first year or so but it could have all been over after that first game so I came to accept how things were,” he said in an interview. ”There is a lot of disappointment though because I know it could have been different.” The sad irony is that, if he had stayed healthy, it’s quite likely that he’d have left Tottenham for a club like Real Madrid and not been a one-club man.

Erik Lamela

Cast your mind back to when Tottenham signed Erik Lamela. He was considered one of the brightest stars of the Bale Seven, coming Roma as a 19-year old off of two years of exceptional production for a young player. If there was a star-in-waiting in that group, it was Erik. It never quite worked out for Lamela at Tottenham, at least based on fan expectations. He struggled to adapt to English football, and picked up a number of serious injuries along the way. With time he’s turned into a rabid pressing harrying midfielder with a penchant for through-balls and sharp elbows, and he’s become one of my all-time favorite Spurs players ever. He’s a solid team player and extremely good to have around. But he never did become the dominant attacking midfielder who scored buckets of goals that we all hoped he’d become.

Aaron Lennon

Aaron Lennon helped take Tottenham from Everton-level mediocrity to where they are today, and he was an integral part of the Harry Redknapp sides that finished fourth two out of three seasons. His ability to sprint down the touchline and his blinding speed endeared him to fans, but you were often left thinking that he had just a little more to give. Late in his career Lennon opened up about his struggles with mental health and depression. It’s hard not to wonder if his struggles impacted his effectiveness on the pitch at times, and he’d be forgiven, of course, if it had.

Tom Carroll

Oh, Tommy. He’s the epitome of the Spurs academy player with a bright future but who never quite translated that promise to Premier League performances. A long time Carty Free favorite, for years this blog’s title featured the line “I’m drunk, but I think Tom Carroll is going to be Xavi.” Alas, his Spurs performance reel is highlighted by his fire-emoji pass to Gareth Bale (coining the phrase “Tom Carroll assist”), and his slight frame made it difficult to establish himself as a Premier League quality midfielder. He was sold to Swansea, and he is currently without a club after his contract expired. I’ll always love him, though. Make him co-club ambassador with Ledley.

Vincent Janssen

I wanted Thicc Vin to be good so badly. He so emphatically was not. He was such a prolific scorer in the Eredivisie that all of us convinced ourselves that he’d be one of the GOOD ones to come out of that league — more like Luis Suarez and less like Jozy Altidore. You can argue that he wasn’t given a proper chance to succeed, but you can’t argue that he wasn’t completely underwhelming in the few chances he did get. The worst part is that he genuinely seems like the nicest guy in the world and I feel awful that it never worked out.

Mousa Dembele

Hot take? Mousa found Mauricio Pochettino too late in his career. Dembele was and remains one of the best Tottenham midfielders I’ve ever seen, and that unique skillset that allowed him to slalom through the center of the pitch was the engine of the best Spurs teams of the Pochettino era. But Dembele struggled with injuries too, and while Poch got the best out of him at that time he frequently made comments in the press about wishing he had had Mousa when he was 18. Now I do as well — I have no doubt that Poch would’ve turned him into an absolute world-beater (and possibly have burned him out by age 25).


Who’s on your list? Which Spurs players do you absolutely love to death, even though they never hit the high notes while at the club? Have your say in the comments.