Tottenham teen Caulker catches Redknapp's eye in Bournemouth
IT IS rare for teenagers to be caught up in a row between club and country, and Spurs fans could have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about last week as Tottenham and England s Under-19s bickered over their need...
By Ben Pearce
IT IS rare for teenagers to be caught up in a row between club and country, and Spurs fans could have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about last week as Tottenham and England's Under-19s bickered over their need for four of the Lilywhites' youngest stars.
Those who were in Bournemouth on Saturday may have a better idea now.
John Bostock, Dean Parrett, Andros Townsend and Steven Caulker were all on show at Dean Court, and three of them will now fly out to France to spearhead England's challenge at the European Under-19 Championships.
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Spurs were initially loathe to lose their up-and-coming talents from the tour of America and now, after tantalising glimpses on the south coast, Tottenham supporters may understand why.
Townsend will be joining the Lilywhites in the US after Spurs pulled the winger out of the England squad at the 11th hour, following the news that David Bentley will be sidelined for the next three months.
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Eighteen-year-old Townsend had the travelling fans on their feet on a few occasions in Bournemouth - not least when he burst out of his own half, scythed through the midfield and saw a low shot cannon back off the post.
However, the quiet confidence of centre-back Caulker was just as impressive and exciting - particularly for those who are tipping him as a potential star for both club and country.
Such claims are, of course, exceedingly premature, particularly after a solid 45 minutes against a League One team in a friendly run-out.
Spurs' dominance was such that the rearguard was rarely tested, and Carlo Cudicini was only forced into one save on his return to action in the first half.
However, it was hard to ignore the patent potential of Caulker and, after the game, Harry Redknapp singled the 6ft 3ins 18-year-old out for special praise: "The kid we had at the back, Caulker, if he doesn't make a player there is something wrong," he said.
All the attributes appear to be there. The giant teenager's size belies his age and he is also blessed with pace - as a schoolboy in west London he won the 400m borough title four years in a row.
An uncompromising tackle near the halfway line at Dean Court was the highlight of an impressive first half.
But then, no-one should be surprised. Yeovil fans certainly wouldn't be. Bournemouth will ply their trade in League One next season, and Caulker spent 44 games shutting out League One strikers last season.
He spent the last campaign on loan with Yeovil, a move which he admits came as a surprise as he had only just signed his first professional contract the previous month, in July 2009.
"I was very happy with my progress over the last season," Caulker told Spurs TV Online. "I wasn't expecting to do so much and to do so well, but you always look to improve. I think there's bits of my game that I could improve, but I'll look to add those to my game in pre-season.
"I wasn't expecting to go out on loan so early. I was looking at the back end of the season, the last two or three months, so I was pleased to get through it."
At 17 years old, Caulker found himself in Somerset and, before long, he was a central figure in a nine-month battle against relegation.
The Londoner started 44 of Yeovil's 46 league games, missing one match because of England Under-19 duty and then returning to Spurs one game early at the end of the campaign - having just secured League One safety with a 3-0 win over Oldham.
Caulker's importance was officially recognised as he scooped Yeovil's player of the season award, and he feels that his loan spell in the West Country taught him valuable lessons.
"It was a step up - mainly physically but also mentally. In youth football there's a certain amount of pressure on you but it's not the same as playing for your mortage and kids," he said.
"You need to get into the club's mentality pretty quickly. It's not just 'if you make a mistake, you make a mistake'. Obviously you need to move on from that but you also have to realise the consequences for people who lose their win bonuses and things like that.
"If you don't stay up then it's a problem for a lot of the players who will be out of contract. But it's a nice pressure I think.
"It was quite a young team at Yeovil but we did have some older, more experienced players and they taught me some tricks.
"It definitely helps, they talked me through a lot of it and they definitely helped my game - I started to talk to them a lot more as well.
"You see a lot of the picture at the back and you start to realise the importance of communication. If there's a man on your team-mate's shoulder and you don't tell them and they score, it's just as much your fault as it is theirs.
"I managed to get the player of the season award, which I really wanted, and when I won that it was a proud moment. I thought that I'd come quite far. I thanked the manager and the players for their support."
As the new season approaches, Redknapp will continue with his policy of sending his young prospects out on loan, and all the signs suggest that, having conquered League One last season, Caulker will be promoted to the Championship.
The young defender will doubtless be anxious for news of his next adopted club but, for now, he is focused on England Under-19s' European campaign, which kicks off with a group match against Austria on Sunday night.
"It's definitely a good experience, seeing other players and playing against them," Caulker finished.
"There are no misfits. Everyone there is of a high quality and I enjoy it. Again it's a pressure but a nice pressure, and playing for your country is an honour.