Sport Soccer

Monday 19 August 2019

How Irish youngster Troy Parrott used a strong pre-season to force his way into Mauricio Pochettino's plans

17-year-old Troy Parrott has made a mark at Spurs during pre-season. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
17-year-old Troy Parrott has made a mark at Spurs during pre-season. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

He is the shy kid blessed with film star looks, a superstar in the making who is already being talked about as the next big thing in Irish soccer.

Yet the hype accompanying the striker Troy Parrott on his journey from Dublin's north side to Premier League stardom is unlikely to derail his ambition.

When you spend time with those who have worked with Parrott, it is clear that this is a young man ready for what is coming his way and that's one of the reasons why Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has been keen to give this next bright young thing a chance to shine ahead of the new season.

The demanding Pochettino would not have dropped a teenage novice into a team that reached the Champions League final just a few weeks ago unless he had total faith in his abilities, so Parrott's prominent role in Tottenham's pre-season games in Asia was evidence of just how highly he is rated by the Spurs hierarchy.

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Manchester United's Marcos Rojo (L) fights for the ball with Tottenham's Troy Parrott (R) during the International Champions Cup football tournament between English Premier League sides Manchester United and Tottenham at Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai on July 25, 2019. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

Starting up front alongside Son Heung-min and Harry Kane for games against star-studded Juventus and Manchester United sides, the former Belvedere player looked at home amid company that would daunt most of his age and Pochettino will not have been surprised by the composure being shown by his latest youthful gem.

After all, the Spurs boss included Parrott in several first team squads in the second half of last season, as he was identified among a small batch of young players fast-tracked towards the senior side and his temperament has impressed the Tottenham boss as much as his talent.

He may only have turned 17 in February, but Parrott has been training with Tottenham's first team stars for several months and has made such an impression that his elevation to starting roles in pre-season matches is a natural progression for the young man who fits neatly into Pochettino's game plan.

Tottenham under this manager is very much built to harness talent like Parrott and that is why he is at a club that will provide him with a platform to realise his glorious potential.

Unlike many top clubs, there is only one canteen at the club's training ground and that means the junior players mingle freely with senior stars, who are encouraged to talk to the youngsters and give them the benefit of their experience.

Harry Winks, Kyle Walker-Peters, Juan Foyth and Oliver Skipp have followed the path currently navigated by Parrott at Tottenham, with the door to Pochettino's first team open to all who are prepared to push on it.

The Spurs boss is noted for ensuring he knows as much about the Tottenham under-23 and under-18 teams as he does about his Premier League starters, with the Argentine tactician and his coaching staff regular attendees for games featuring the club's junior sides.

Pochettino learns the names all the club's youth team hopefuls and regularly drops into their training sessions, with coaching staff at all levels of the club drilled to train their players using the same methods promoted by the first team staff, with that helping to ensure the transition from the under-23 team to the senior side is seamless.

Composed on the ball, intelligent in the runs he makes and clearly at home in a side featuring £63m summer signing Tanguy Ndombele and star turns Dele Alli and Kane, Parrott looks every inch a first team player in the making and that promotion could come sooner than many predicted.

"Troy is an exciting prospect at the moment and I think what we like about him is his work ethic," former Tottenham captain Ledley King told football.london.

"He's one of those players who rolls up his sleeves and puts in a shift for the team, regardless of how well he's playing. He's always putting in that work rate.

"I know the manager likes him and there are a few other young lads on the trip and it's an exciting time for them as well. It's great to know that if they do perform and keep progressing then there is a future for them at the club.

"There are a lot of other teams and managers who look to buy first rather than trying to develop a player, but our manager does things differently so he's in a great place at this club. We have a manager almost wants young players to give him that problem, to come into the first team and that's not always the case elsewhere."

Many have suggested the plan Pochettino has rolled out at Tottenham's highly impressive training base in Enfield, north London, has similarities to Alex Ferguson's eagerness to embrace youthful performers during his heyday at Manchester United.

Ferguson's fabled 'Class of '92' youth team featuring David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, were held up as shining lights of what is possible if a top club places their faith in young performers, but few have followed that lead since.

The era of big-spending in the Premier League has seen clubs sacrifice the develop of youth in the chase of instant success, with Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United leading the way in the big spending league.

Yet Tottenham have followed a different script, partly out of financial necessity and secondly because they have a manager who has a passion for developing young players, with Parrott the latest apple of Pochettino's talent-spotting eye.

The Irishman did not travel with the Ireland under-19 side that made it through to the semi-finals of the European Championships in Armenia this month, and while that decision was viewed as disappointing when it was made by Tottenham, Pochettino has ensured this summer has been fruitful for his next big star.

Parrott will have gained so much playing against Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and the game's biggest names in the last few days and as he emerged from games against Juventus and Manchester United with his reputation enhanced, so the excitement levels around him moved up a few more levels.

It may still be too early to hail Parrott as the great hope for Irish soccer, but he is giving us all plenty of reasons to feel excitement as he heads into a season that looks certain to feature his Premier League debut.

TROY PARROTT FACTFILE

Born: February 4th 2002 in Dublin

* Born and raised in the Irish capital, Troy attended O'Connell School in the shadow of Croke Park.

* He featured three times for our Under-18s towards the end of 2017/18 and top-scored with 10 goals at the Under-17 Borgaro Maggioni Righi tournament in Italy.

* Parrott represented Republic of Ireland at the 2018 European Under-17 Championship, scoring three goals in four games.

* Ireland boss Mick McCarthy has hinted he might call-up Parrott to his senior Ireland squad after his impressive performances for Tottenham's first team in their pre-season games.

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