Alex Pritchard’s thrilled to end season with Spurs debut at the Lane
12:02 12 May 2014
Tottenham’s 21-year-old midfielder Alex Pritchard became the club’s latest debutant yesterday, and Harry Kane says his fellow youngster is one to watch in the future.
Given Tim Sherwood’s passion for youth development, and the fact that he was seemingly taking charge of his last game yesterday, it was fitting that Spurs finished their campaign with five academy graduates on the pitch.
Twenty-three-year-old Danny Rose and 20-year-old Harry Kane were both in the initial line-up – the latter making his sixth successive start in the Premier League.
And, with Tottenham holding a comfortable 3-0 lead over Aston Villa on the hour-mark, Sherwood gradually introduced 18-year-old Milos Veljkovic, 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb and 21-year-old Alex Pritchard into the midfield.
It was Veljkovic’s second appearance for the Lilywhites following a brief run-out in last month’s 5-1 home win over Sunderland, while Pritchard became the club’s latest debutant.
The diminutive midfielder has spent the season on loan with League One outfit Swindon Town, establishing himself as a key player and making 44 appearances while contributing eight goals.
Pritchard turned 21 on May 3, and under to the terms of his youth loan agreement he was therefore unable to play in Swindon’s final game against Rotherham that day.
Instead, he found himself on the Spurs bench at West Ham. And, although that proved to be a dark day for Tottenham – no time to introduce a youngster - he made his Premier League bow in the 83rd minute of yesterday’s victory over the Villans.
“Coming back from Swindon, I thought to myself ‘I’ve got to get on to the pitch this season, just to see what it’s like’,” said Pritchard. “To come on in front of thousands of people, I enjoyed every minute of it.
“When I heard I wasn’t going to be playing in the last game of the season at Swindon, with my birthday being on that day, I thought I was going to come back to Spurs and just train.
“Then they said I was training with the first team so I always thought in the back of my mind that I might get a chance on the pitch, and I did.
“The time at Swindon has been great for me. I’ve loved every minute of being there, being with the boys – and a few of them being from Spurs.
“I needed to get out and play proper football, men’s football, first-team football and I’ve done it this year.
“I like to get the ball in the pockets, a bit like Christian Eriksen, but obviously he’s got a bit more on me! I’ve just got to keep plugging away and hopefully more games will come.”
Kane was delighted to see Bentaleb, Veljkovic and Pritchard coming off the bench and joining the party at the Lane, after their time together in the academy.
The striker said: “It’s great to see your mates that you’ve grown up with getting on the pitch – especially Pritchard getting on for his first Premier League game.
“He’s a top player. He’s very neat and tidy, he’s nippy, he’s hard to tackle – and he’s got a great strike on him as well. He’s one for the future and it’s a very proud day for him.
“I told him before he came on to express himself. He knows he’s a great player and everyone knows he’s a great player, so I just said ‘get on the ball and don’t be shy’.”
Kane has certainly finished his own season on a high with a string of starts and a recent run of three goals in consecutive games against Sunderland, West Brom and Fulham.
“I knew [at the start of the season] that I was going to stay here, I wanted to break through,” he said. “I had to be patient early on but I’ve got my chance at the back end and I’ve taken it.
“I’ve got my goals so hopefully I can take that into next season, see what happens and hit the ground running.
“I think we’ve got to go for the Champions League. We’ll come back for pre-season and if we put in performances like this last one then it’s there for us - but we’ve got to work hard and we know it’s going to be a long season.
“We’ve got to play better against the bigger clubs, I think it’s as simple as that. We haven’t beaten enough of them this season and we’ve got to perform better against them. If we want to be in the Champions League they’re the games you have to win.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs