Jan Vertonghen believes he can act as a guiding light for Tottenham’s youngsters after completing his football education at one of the best schools in the world game.
By Tom Collomosse
Vertonghen moved to Spurs in the summer from Ajax, a club whose ability to nurture young players has been admired for many years.
The Belgian defender has made an outstanding start to his career at White Hart Lane and crowned another proficient performance with his first goal for the club in last night’s 3-0 win at Carlisle in the Capital One Cup. Spurs’s victory secured a fourth-round tie at Norwich but after only six games for the club, Vertonghen already has an eye on the future and is impressed by what he has seen.
Six graduates from Tottenham’s junior teams — Adam Smith, Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Tom Carroll and Jon Obika — played a part against the League One club and Vertonghen is optimistic about their prospects.
“I hope I can teach them something,” he told Standard Sport. “A few of them played in pre-season with us and they impressed me then. The guys who played last night and those who came on in the second half are real quality players, very skilful and with a good mentality.
“I think that Ajax, for young players, is one of the best clubs in the world at which to develop, so I know good young players and we have them here at Tottenham. What I have seen here makes me think that all these players can eventually play for the first team.”
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas (above, with Vertonghen) will bring back his first-choice men for Saturday’s trip to Manchester United in the Premier League, with only Caulker and Townsend — who scored a fine second goal soon after half-time last night — likely to be included in the match-day squad.
Yet Spurs fans will be encouraged to see Villas-Boas testing the talents of the youngsters, as his predecessor Harry Redknapp attempted to do during the Europa League last season.
Townsend was the standout player of the group and most did well but Smith, stepping in at right-back for Kyle Walker, struggled.
Most of Carlisle’s best moments developed down their left side but Vertonghen settled the visitors’ nerves with the first after 37 minutes.
Townsend’s 25-yard strike eight minutes after the break took the game away from Carlisle and Gylfi Sigurdsson also got off the mark when he headed the third shortly before full-time. Sigurdsson felt unwell after the game and will be monitored before the trip to Manchester.
Vertonghen added: “You would rather play at home in a cup competition but Norwich are a team we can beat. Chelsea and Manchester United are playing each other, Manchester City are out, Everton are out, so a few teams have gone and there are possibilities for us.
“I’ve had a good start here but adapting quickly was what I hoped for. I’m not 19, where I can wait for two or three years. I’m 25, I want to play well now and so far it’s happening. I’ve got my first goal and that’s a good start.”