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Wednesday 22 May 2013

Barclays U21s: Grounds to be positive for Tottenham's Hall

Spurs defender upbeat about inaugural Barclays U21 Premier League despite final defeat

Tottenham defender Grant Hall (right) tracks Man United's Jesse Lingard in the final

Though disappointed at losing the Barclays Under-21 Premier League final, Tottenham Hotspur captain Grant Hall found "a lot of positives" from an impressive campaign and the opportunity to play in "unbelievable" top-tier stadia provided by the new league format.

"It’s about development for the young boys, progressing and hopefully getting into the first team one day"
Grant Hall

Hall's side were seemingly cruising towards victory when Alex Pritchard and Jonathan Obika put the Londoners 2-0 up in Monday night's final. Indeed the damage could have been greater for Manchester United as Tottenham twice hit the woodwork in a dominant first-half display.

But Old Trafford witnessed an extraordinary second-half fightback from the hosts as Marnick Vermijl reduced the arrears and Larnell Cole scored twice to seal a memorable victory for United, much to centre-back Hall's chagrin.

"I'm devastated," said the 21-year-old after the match. "I'm lost for words, really. I was confident we could go on to win it being 2-0 up at half-time. We deserved to be that far ahead as well, but in the second half we just dropped off a bit too much and gave them a bit too much space.

"There might have been a bit of us trying to protect our lead creeping into it, but we shouldn't have really. It was poor from us. We needed to push up but it's devastating because we worked so hard all season and to go out like that leaves me lost for words."

Prolific Spurs

Despite the defeat, the Spurs skipper could take comfort from a campaign in which his side topped the National Group 2 in the pre-Christmas first phase and also the Elite Group in the second phase.

The Londoners proved by far the most prolific scorers, with 79 goals in 27 matches and played an attractive, expansive game throughout the campaign, and Hall also recognised the ultimate role of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League as another stage in the pathway of player development as opposed to an all-important must-win event.

"We deserved to get to the final, we've been fantastic all season and, at the end of the day, it's part of our advancement," he said. "We would have loved to have won it just to top off the season but it's about development for the young boys, progressing and hopefully getting into the first team one day. So we can take a lot of positives out of this season, definitely.

"Old Trafford is massive, so we’ll definitely take something from playing at those stadiums, experience-wise"
Grant Hall

"We score most games. We look to play attacking football but to be 2-0 up at half-time and then lose 3-2 is not acceptable really. You should see out those 45 minutes, really, but there's a lot of positives to take out of this season for the boys and hopefully we’ll bounce back next season."

Hall added that he and his peers had enjoyed playing in the inaugural league this season with the opportunity to play more matches in Premier League stadia a particular highlight.

"It's been great," he added. "It's fantastic the Premier League brought in the Under-21 league - we're playing against top teams now with all the youngsters involved. It's better than just playing in the reserves league.

"Playing in Premier League stadiums is unbelievable, to be fair. Playing here tonight it's easily the best stadium I've played at. Old Trafford is massive, so we'll definitely take something from playing at those stadiums experience-wise. Hopefully, next season we can go one step further and win it."

Bigger picture

Chris Ramsey, Tottenham's senior professional phase coach, was equally sanguine, focusing on the bigger picture rather than the Old Trafford result.

"We're not going to judge the season on the last 30 minutes of the last game of the season," he said."I was unhappy we surrendered a two-goal lead but we have to be mindful of what stage we’re at in the players' development. Maybe in time, they will learn and grow from this.

"For our boys to play at such an outstanding venue and to have had such an outstanding season, all in all we’re very pleased"
Chris Ramsey

"Tonight it was a very good spectacle from Manchester United in the way they fought back from being 2-0 down at half-time. It's indicative of the United spirit and we’re pleased to have been part of this final.

"Obviously, if this was a first-team game we wouldn't have just been pleased to be part of it but some of these boys who played tonight are only 17.

"The emotional drain on their performance started to show when United turned the screw and changed the momentum. But for our boys to play at such an outstanding venue and to have had such an outstanding season, all in all we’re very pleased."

Key Points

  • Grant Hall hails impact of inaugural Barclays Under-21 Premier League
  • Tottenham Hotspur defender rueful of 3-2 final loss but keen to see the positives
  • 21-year-old describes benefit of playing in Premier League stadia and against top sides in same age group

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