Young guns earn their Spurs
Pochettino must be lauded for his work with talent although not all will become bonafide stars
|MAN UNITED V||TOTTENHAM|
Witnessing the unbridled joy on the cherubic features of Ben Woodburn after his history-making goal for Liverpool in the League Cup win over Leeds last month was genuinely heartwarming.
The big question now is whether the 17-year-old can fulfil his potential and go on to enjoy a successful, long-term career in the game, or whether he'll wind up being little more than a shooting star - a mere footnote in football history.
The sobering fact is that it's now harder than ever for players to emerge through the ranks at top clubs and graduate to first- team honours.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has received plenty of plaudits for being prepared to give youth a chance.
And with good reason - Spurs boast the youngest squad in the Premier League with an average age of just 24 years and 295 days.
This season, Harry Winks has found his name on the scoresheet, while Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers are part of the first-team fold; not to mention established internationals such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier who are all in their early 20s.
Last weekend, while doing background research into Kane, I stumbled upon Spurs' teamsheet for their 0-0 draw against PAOK Salonika in the Europa League in September 2011.
A young Kane was among the starters for Spurs, alongside fellow youngsters Tom Carroll and Iago Falque.
On the bench that day were a handful of teenagers - Ryan Fredericks, Jake Nicholson, Alex Pritchard, Dean Parrett, Kevin Stewart and Jack Barthram.
No, I've never heard of them either.
Football history is littered with teenage sensations who have been thrust into the spotlight at a tender age, only to crash and burn just as the ink was drying on their first contract.
When the shelf-life of a Premier League manager is akin to that of a cancerous mayfly, it's no wonder that so few are brave enough to give youngsters an extended run in the side.
One mistake from an inexperienced player might literally cost them his job.
But how would a player like John Bostock have developed under Pochettino?
Bostock was just 15 years and 287 days old when he made his league debut for Crystal Palace.
Eight months later, he was on the move to Spurs in a cut-price deal that many people at Palace remain furious about.
However, despite being heralded as English football's next superstar, the midfielder never managed to play a league game for the club, and was farmed out on loan five times before being released in 2013.
A player who made 40 appearances for England's youth sides found himself on the footballing scrapheap at the age of 21.
"I moved to Spurs, I learnt a lot and I enjoyed my time there, but it didn't turn out how I would have liked it to," Bostock told ITV News.
"I'd like to be defined as a player who is hungry to achieve, a player who is not trying to live up to that 15-year-old hype, keen to learn the game and enjoy the game.
"I want to try to play at the highest level possible, so however that looks, whatever country that's in, I am hungry to do it."
Considered damaged goods in England, Bostock has been forced to revive his career abroad. He has enjoyed success in Belgium, becoming a key player at Royal Antwerp and then OH Leuven, whom he helped gain promotion to the Jupiler Pro league.
He's now turning out for Lens in France's second division as they battle for promotion to Ligue 1.
Despite being written off while barely out of his teens, the Bostock story looks like having a happy ending.
With consecutive Ligue 2 Player of the Month awards under his belt - the result of five goals and two assists - the plaudits are once again flooding in for a player who's still only 24.
Ben Woodburn, take note.
- Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at Eleven Sports Network. Join Richard and his studio guests for Eleven's live coverage of the Premier League, which includes tonight's clash between Arsenal and Stoke (10.30pm), as well as tomorrow's showdowns between Chelsea and West Brom (7.30pm), and Man United versus Spurs (10.15pm kick-off). For more details visit www.elevensports.sg