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Conte: Spence, Gil improving, playing their way into more minutes

Tottenham Hotspur v Eintracht Frankfurt: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Guys, gals, and non-binary pals, I bring you team news from paradise. I promised myself I wasn’t going to write much (if at all) while on vacation in St. John, USVI but I find myself with a little down time and a solid wifi connection so why not do a quick write-up?

But first, humblebrag — this is the view from where I am writing this very second.

Wish you were here. Well, actually no, it’d get a little crowded.

But now: Tottenham. There’s good news from Antonio Conte’s press conference today ahead of the home match against Everton at Google Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, especially if you’re a fan of young footballers who aren’t getting much playing time under Antonio Conte. The Spurs gaffer was asked about Bryan Gil after his cameo performance in the Champions League against Eintracht Frankfurt during which he earned a penalty (that Harry Kane skied over the bar). And contrary to the hand-wave comments that we’re used to getting from Conte about unused players, he actually had some really interesting things to say about Bryan!

“Yeah but you know that for me all the players in my squad are really important. They have to show me that they are ready to help us. I ask only this. But I have great respect for all my players and I think this respect, they feel this respect because in every training session my attention is the same for every single player, for Harry Kane but also if the player is [Harvey] White or Pape Sarr. We are talking about two really important prospects.

“I ask only to give me the opportunity to be relaxed and if I give the opportunity to these players to play, only this. Gil is a really good prospect. He is becoming stronger, physically, because he has in this moment only this gap for Premier League, it’s physical, you know?

“Otherwise technically he understands football in an important way. I’m sure that we’re talking about a player that will be an important prospect for the future. Now he’s building also, he’s improving on the physical aspect and for us that’s important.”

That tracks with what we’ve been saying about Gil over the past year or so, and especially since Conte took over. Bryan’s a pretty young dude, is a lightweight, and is coming from La Liga, which isn’t as physical as the rough-and-tumble Premier League. It makes sense that he’d need some time to adjust, not only to Conte’s tactics but also to the rigors of English football. And it’s not like he hasn’t shown some flashes of quality. I only watched the highlights of the Frankfurt match on Wednesday, but to my eyes he looked pretty bright.

Conte was also asked about the right back position and who might start against Everton, since Emerson Royal still has two matches to go on his red card suspension. Matt Doherty started against Brighton and played pretty well, though he was clearly a little rusty. But in answering that question, Conte also had nice things to say about Djed Spence! Unprompted!

“We played also before without Emerson against Brighton. [Doherty] played a good game. He is recovering good form and I am really pleased for this because he struggled a lot, this guy, to come back at an important level. Last season, I think Matthew struggled at the start but then he played an important season for us.

“My hope [is] to have more options in this role also for Djed [Spence], I think he is improving and starting to understand which is the demand to stay at Tottenham. But I’m pleased if I have more options. Then I have only to pick the best choice, I’m happy.”

There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about Spence’s signing and how he was not (necessarily) a primary target for Conte in the summer transfer window. But these are good and encouraging comments. It suggests that there’s a necessary bedding-in process for new players under Conte, and that he really does think there’s a future for Djed in the side. That’d be nice to see. Spence has a unique skill set that could, in the right conditions, be really exciting under Conte’s tactics, but it’s clear Conte doesn’t think Spence is ready at the moment, and that’s okay too.

OK, that’s the news, back to my mango beer and tropical island byeeeeeeeeeeee.