The tear-stained tissues still serve as a fresh reminder of the early retirement of a Spurs great. After Ledley King’s decision to hang-up his boots Tottenham needed a new defensive lynchpin; a new Tottenham boy to be excited about; and something to shout about in the coming season.
The victory at Old Trafford against Man United, the first since 1989 and the first in the Premiership, was notable not just for the historic result but also a defensive display of the highest order from William Gallas and 20 year old Steven Caulker.
Since his debut for Tottenham in the Europa League and his introduction at halftime in the QPR game, the central defender hasn’t looked back. Indeed, it was his introduction in the game against QPR which proved to be the pivotal moment in turning the game back in Tottenham’s favour.
His inclusion in the center of defence next to Gallas allowed Vertonghen, in the absense of Assou-Ekotto, to be moved to left back and pushed Gareth Bale further up the pitch in his favoured attacking role. They went on to score two second half goals and get the three points.
His assured performances, mature displays and calmness under pressure have earned him rave reviews from the Tottenham fans who this season have been quick to get on the back of tepid and uninspiring performances. Not bad for a player so young.
But then Caulker is one of their own…isn’t he? Not strictly true. Caulker signed for the North London club as a talented 15 year old after having impressed in a trial with them. He got experience out on loan with successful spells at Yeovil Town, Bristol City and most recently last season; a season-long loan at Swansea where he was to learn under Brendan Rodgers and the famous Swansea City passing game.
As far as Tottenham fans are concerned, though, this boy is one of their own. And to whom their hopes are pinned to be their new homegrown defensive star.
Footballing wise, Caulker appears to be quite similar to King. Both physically imposing - able to dominate aerially with his huge 6″3 frame and mix it with the most physical of strikers, both reassuringly calm on the ball, and favouring to pass the ball out from the back rather than an aimless hoof. The latter being a testament to how much he learnt under Rodgers.
Caulkers inclusion and performances will come as no surprise to many who have been keeping track of him in his loan spells. His potential was there for all to see. At Yeovil, he won four out of the six of their end of season awards. And then at Bristol City where he was awarded their Young Player of the Season and nominated for Player of the Season.
David James, goalkeeper for Bristol City at the time, said this in his Observer article, “…Steven Caulker is on loan at our place from Tottenham and he is having a terrific season. Only 19 years old, without a doubt he’s one of our best players…Caulker is quality.”
Despite this, Caulker has only got this chance due to injuries to first team players. Younis Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have been out for a considerable amount of time and it remains to be seen when they will be back, let alone match fit.
Caulker has grasped his chance and is performing admirably, but he is still raw. He’s still young and with many years to go before he hits his peak. That undoubtedly will bring a smile to the faces of Spurs fans. Still young. Time on his side. How good can he be?
Henry Winter tweeted not so long ago, “If English center-halves were a stock market, it would be worth buying shares in Steven Caulker”.
The heir apparent? Watch this space.
Written by William Hold
Follow him on Twitter @liam17oi
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