Tuesday 22 October 2019

Parrott's Spurs debut opens door to real world

Pochettino insists Irish teen 'needs time' after challenging opening night

Tottenham’s Troy Parrott with manager Mauricio Pochettino after being substituted in the 65th minute of last night’s League Cup clash against Colchester. Photo: PA
Tottenham’s Troy Parrott with manager Mauricio Pochettino after being substituted in the 65th minute of last night’s League Cup clash against Colchester. Photo: PA
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There was a trace of disappointment on Troy Parrott's face as the board went up to mark the end of his senior competitive debut for Tottenham.

But the identity of his replacement shone a light on the company that Ireland's next big thing is keeping.

The 17-year-old trotted off after 65 goalless minutes to shake hands with Christian Eriksen, the slayer of a nation's World Cup dreams in the autumn of 2017, a year in which Parrott was still scoring goals in the Dublin & District Schoolboys League with Belvedere.

Placed in that context, the boy from Buckingham Street in the inner city of the capital has come a long way in a short space of time, with his progression to the Spurs first-team picture a significant factor in the sudden increase in Irish optimism.

His fate won't be determined by whether he can do it on a nondescript Tuesday night in Colchester. And he will overcome the association with a penalty shoot-out loss to the League Two side that prompted a frenzied pitch invasion. The scrutiny will fall on the senior pros and Spurs' sluggish start to the campaign

What it may do is impact on his chances of making the Ireland squad for the testing away double-header in Georgia and Switzerland.

Terry Connor was present here, with Mick McCarthy believing that his assistant is an excellent judge of strikers, and it's plausible they will reach the verdict that the pressure-cooker atmosphere of those games will be too much to ask at this stage.

Certainly, Mauricio Pochettino pleaded for calm afterwards when asked by the Irish Independent about the teen's contribution

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"Troy needs time," he said. "He's so young. For sure he's going to be an important player for Tottenham in the future but maybe he needs one year, two years, of being involved and playing in this type of game.

"Five years ago, it was Eric Dier, Ryan Mason, Harry Kane. We need to create again the belief and the space for the younger players. That is what we are trying to do."

That said, it's safe to assume that Ireland will not be spending any of their remaining Euro 2020 qualifiers dominating the ball and trying to unlock a packed defence, which was the task here. Subs Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela were unable to find the key either, thus sending Spurs towards their humbling exit

Both Eriksen and Lucas Moura failed to hit the target from the spot.

During the summer, Parrott sampled grander stages than the JobServe Community Stadium and it's expected that he will spend his working life at bigger venues than this compact 10,000-seater venue located at a roundabout in a quiet area on the outskirts of the Essex town.

Parrott judges himself by high standards, but he was starved of proper opportunities. The one regret will be a moment just after the restart where clever movement anticipated the flight of a Dier cross. Alas, his first-time effort cleared the crossbar. There will be chances to put that right.

Colchester is the type of place that Premier League clubs normally send academy graduates to learn. It gives rising stars the opportunity to rub shoulders with hardened professionals, operating in a cut-throat world where the primary focus is the next contract.

Playing for points and wages is a world away from the tranquility of the U-18 and U-23 leagues, pressure-free environments that can deceive players into the comfort zone.

Parrott may well end up on the loan circuit eventually, but the level of Spurs' regard for the teenager would suggest that they will never see the fourth tier of English football as a necessary step in his development.

Pochettino has described him as Kane's back-up, a slightly misleading statement given that he hasn't made the bench yet this term, but representative of the fact that Spurs need him around the place. Parrott is rated by Kane's camp too, as he has signed up for the same agency.

And he was selected in Kane's role here, a central attacker supported by runs from Moura and Dele Alli.

He had shared the same pitch as experienced global stars on the pre-season circuit. This was an earthier type of environment.

Parrott has developed physically over the past 12 months, an attribute that stood out when pitted alongside Irish U-21 colleagues. This was a level up in that regard.

Colchester fielded two sturdy and savvy 6ft 3in centre-halves. There was Tom Eastman, once described as a "good lad with a good attitude" by Roy Keane when he gave him his debut at Ipswich.

His stay with the Championship side had a similar shelf-life to Keane and the 27-year-old is a part of the furniture at Colchester.

His defensive partner was Luke Prosser, a 31-year-old who kicked off his football journey in the Spurs academy with dreams of wearing white.

Prosser found his level via a host of destinations both in and out of the Football League. There were moments where the League Two side tried to outmuscle their guests, and Parrott came off second best.

But he was also thrust back into defensive duties for set-pieces and rose to make two important headers in the period before his withdrawal.

Beyond that, there were glimpses of his ability; a sumptuous crossfield pass to Kyle Walker-Peters, an involvement in tidy link play that was headed off at the pass by Colchester interceptions. John McGreal's side fended off danger at every opportunity, showing more enthusiasm and desire.

Colchester celebrated feverishly as Parrott patted Moura on the head before making his way down the tunnel, sure to reflect on an exercise which proves that nothing comes easy in this business.

Irish Independent

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