Sunday 19 May 2013
Ahead of Monday’s final of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, premierleague.com is taking a closer look at the two teams.
In an interview for Tottenham Hotspur's matchday programme this season, Tom Carroll shared his thoughts with Luke Powell.
When Tom Carroll was working his way through the ranks of the Spurs Academy and dreaming of his Premier League debut, the 21-year-old probably did not envisage it ending in a 1-0 home defeat by Wigan Athletic. But that’s how his big moment turned.
But Carroll did not let that affect him and he was determined to make sure that his next Spurs appearance was of more noteworthy recall.
Five days later, he got that opportunity when he lined up at kick-off against NK Maribor in the UEFA Europa League under the White Hart Lane floodlights. Ninety-minutes later he was walking off the pitch after a consummate 3-0 victory where his performance drew plaudits from supporters and media alike. He impressed throughout and notably started the move for the first goal and gave a slide-rule pass to Jermain Defoe in the 18-yard box for the second.
"I always enjoy getting on the ball and looking to create things"
Despite the surge in appreciation, Carroll demonstrates maturity when asked if he is happy with being compared to Barcelona’s former Ballon d’Or nominees.
"Obviously I would be more than happy with that kind of comparison – they are two of the best players in the world! I love watching Barcelona and the way they play, and Xavi and Iniesta are crucial to their style of football.
“But, although it's nice to hear things like that, it doesn't really mean too much to me right now as I'm just looking to progress here at Spurs and focus on improving my own game. I would like to think that when I’ve played I have done well this season – particularly in the Europa League - and I just want to keep taking the opportunities I’m given."
Having featured in the competition over two seasons now, Carroll is confident that he can perform at European level. His deft touches, pinpoint passing and constant movement helped to build possession and control games as Spurs progressed through the tournament.
“It’s fair to say that my game is well suited to playing European football," Carroll said. "The matches are very different to Premier League games – there is a greater need to be patient and keep the ball in order to frustrate the opposition a bit more. I’d say that definitely suits my style of play and I always enjoy getting on the ball and looking to create things.
“Maybe I have a different style of play to what people might expect of English footballers, but I’d say it might be more due to the fact that the type of players that we are bringing through as a country is generally more technical nowadays. I know that this club, in particular, works really hard to help the younger players to develop their technique – and I would say that we are beginning to see the benefits of that.”
Most would expect that Carroll will get more opportunities in the near future, and he is not the only young Academy graduate making an impression on the first team this season. Steven Caulker has returned to Spurs from a year in Wales with Swansea City and has held his own in the competition for games at centre-back this season.
Carroll says that he can take heart from the opportunities that Caulker is being afforded.
“It is definitely a big plus seeing Caulks getting so much game time. He obviously went out on loan to Swansea last season where he proved he is capable of performing in the Premier League and for that he has deserved those opportunities – he is going to be a great player for the club," Carroll said. “We are looking to be in the Champions League every season and at some clubs that can prevent young players getting the chance out there on the pitch.
"It really is important to know that if you are good enough here then you will get the opportunities like Caulks has this year. It helps inspire you to work that little bit harder to get a few more games under your belt.”
Caulker earned his time at the back this season through his solid performances at the Liberty Stadium, so would Tom be willing to follow suit by adding to his experiences at Derby County and Leyton Orient?
“My aim is to play here but if an attractive loan move came up and the manager wanted me to get more experience elsewhere to boost my progression I would do that. But that would be his decision, and for now I am focused on making the most of the chances that I am getting.
“I’m learning all the time while I’m here, and I feel that I’ve progressed under Andre this season. He has given me the chance to play in the Premier League which I appreciate. Andre is very organised and that is reflected in training – the sessions are always really good and sharp which makes them so enjoyable. And I would say that is being shown by the results that we are seeing on the pitch in the most part.
“I'm really enjoying being able to train with these players every day, especially at that intensity and tempo because it is helping me in my development. Andre encourages me to do the things that I’m good at by helping to build possession and make things happen – and that’s what my game is all about.”
"Andre encourages me to build possession and make things happen"
Tom has been making his breakthrough at a time when the Club has such an abundance of midfield talent, but he is refusing to get frustrated by any limitation to his opportunities and instead expresses enthusiasm for the direction in which Spurs are headed under Andre Villas-Boas.
“We've been doing really well this season under Andre," Carroll said. “In an ideal world maybe I’d like to have played a bit more than I have done, but I appreciate the quality that we have here. There are some big names on the teamsheet right now with a lot of internationals – and I’m still young! I’ll just be hoping that I get a few more opportunities to show what I can do.”
Perhaps his philosophical approach to his role within the squad owes to the time when he had to learn to be patient during his Academy days. His physique at a young age hindered his progress and limited his game time in his own age group to the extent that the decision was made to move him down a year so that he could develop alongside players of a more similar size.
“I played down a year when I was younger and I’ve definitely benefitted from that in the long run. I wasn’t getting games for my own age group for a while, which was frustrating, but I moved down a team to give me more time on the pitch and that was important in my development. After all it was my performances at youth level that have got me into this position, and maybe that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“I’m grateful because your physical stature can go against you. I know clubs over the years that have allowed it to be an issue and they lost out on technically gifted players because of that. I’m just happy that this club have given me the chance, and hopefully I’m taking it!”
And despite having been limited to 14 appearances so far this season, Tom is pleased about his progress and feels he has gained good memories of the Premier League.
“My season has gone quite well as I've made quite a few appearances in comparison to last year and I'm training with the first team all the time now which can only help me to improve. Unfortunately my Premier League debut came in that loss to Wigan but I've gone on to make a few more appearances in the league since then which is massive for me – playing in the Premier League is what I want to do at the end of the day.
“I went on when we were 2-1 down at West Ham having not been involved a lot for a while and it was a great team effort to get ourselves back into the game before Gareth scored that spectacular winner. The dressing room was absolutely buzzing afterwards and I definitely want to experience more moments like that in a Spurs shirt!”
You can go to watch Januzaj and the best youngsters at Spurs and United at Old Trafford for just £2. Entrance to the Barclays Under-21 final will be available on the night at Old Trafford. Tickets will be priced at £5 (adults) and £2 (concessions) and entry bought via cash turnstiles at entrance E30 at Old Trafford.
For more on the Manchester United Under-21 team, click here
For more on the Tottenham Hotspur Under-21 team, click here
To view this season's league tables, click here