I’ve found the situation with Jamie O’Hara very frustrating. Here is a young player who very much wants to play for Spurs and has always put everything into it when he does, yet hasn’t been given much in the way of opportunities.

This season he’s found himself out on loan at Portsmouth and whilst playing every week will help with O’Hara’s development, it’s been annoying to see him playing much better for Pompey than Jermaine Jenas has for Tottenham. With Huddlestone’s lack of mobility often an issue, there’s every reason to believe that O’Hara might have seen quite a lot of football at White Hart Lane this season.

The player is suggesting that he might have to leave Tottenham in the summer to find regular game time, but I for one hope that he is given one last season to try and establish himself at Spurs. If he’s still not in the team after that, then fair enough, we should cut our losses. At least then we’ll know one way or the other whether O’Hara can cut it at Spurs.

A lot of people say he’s just not skillful enough, but the same thing was said about Darren Fletcher at Manchester United a few years ago and look how he’s blossomed. Young players need to be given a chance and that means a steady flow of opportunities, not the odd appearance from the bench.

I think that at Spurs we’ve often been guilty of letting talented young players leave too early, before they’ve really had time to establish themselves. As a result we’ve often ended up looking silly as we’ve spent millions on players that aren’t as good as one’s that have developed through our youth system, but have then let go.

Here are 6 players that Spurs let go too soon.

Peter Crouch

A lot of people don’t think that Crouch is up to the job of playing for Tottenham, but what is undeniable is that it would have been preferable to hang onto a player that we eventually ended up paying £10m for.

Aged just 19, we let Crouch go for £60,000 to QPR. He made an immediate impact at Loftus Road and then went onto do well at Portsmouth, before Villa paid £5m to bring Crouch back to the top flight just two years after we’d let him go for peanuts.

It actually took Crouch a relatively long time to find his big feet in the Premier League, which he eventually managed during his spell at Southampton. So he would never have been a player that could have walked into Tottenham’s first team at an early age, but it would have been far more prudent to loan him around to a couple of lower league clubs before deciding he wasn’t up to it.

Nick Barmby

This was a tricky one, as the player wanted to leave Tottenham. Or rather, his much older wife was nagging a teenager to leave Spurs, as she wanted to live closer to their home town of Hull. Didn’t she know that it’s only a two hour train journey from King’s Cross?

Eventually he was granted a transfer to Middlesbrough, which isn’t actually that near to Hull, but at least allowed Mrs Barmby to live somewhere where she could get gravy on her chips.

Had he stayed at White Hart Lane, Barmby might have fulfilled his undoubted potential, which only blossomed occasionally as he drifted from club to club and never found a true home.

Mark Bowen

There was a time when the Norwich team might as well be called ‘Tottenham Reserves’. Letting the talented Ian Crook go to Carrow Road was regrettable but understandable, considering our midfield boasted Ardiles and Hoddle (a fate that also befell the skillful Micky Hazard). However, it was their back four that was painful for Tottenham fans to watch play.

Spurs youth products Ian Culverhouse and later John Polsten lined up in a Norwich defence which often looked far more stable that ours, but left back Mark Bowen was the player I was saddest to have seen left.

Confident in defence, with the ability to get forward, Bowen was certainly a lot better player than the likes of Mitchell Thomas and some of the other hopeless left backs that Tottenham have had to put up with. In total Bowen made 399 appearances for the Canaries.

Luke Young

Much like Mark Bowen, Luke Young hasn’t turned into a top, top player, but has consistently played better than those that followed him into White Hart Lane.

Young was allowed to move to Charlton, as he was unhappy at being played in the centre of defence rather than his favoured position of right back. The right side of our defence was then the property of Stephen Carr, another Tottenham youth product, so it was understandable that Young might believe that he would never get a proper chance at Spurs.

Of course, the minute Young was sold to Charlton, Carr picked up a serious injury and then eventually left us to line his medals cabinet at Newcastle (with dust). Young eventually went onto win his 7 England caps in 2005; a period in which Tottenham fielded such luminaries at right back as Noe Pamarot and Paul Stalteri.

Mounir El Hamdaoui

Having impressed with his scoring record at Excelsior, Mounir El Hamdaoui joined Tottenham aged 21. He was loaned out to Derby County in an effort to ease his way into English football and scored twice in 6 appearances, before picking up an injury. He returned to Derby later in the season and scored again, before getting another injury.

In this time he never made an appearance for Spurs and with the likes of Berbatov, Keane and Defoe ahead of him in the pecking order, we sold him to Willem II after just one season. We figured that as was the case with Jonathan Blondel, here was a gamble that the club had taken on a young player that didn’t pay off. No big deal.

This seemed to be the case as more injuries prevented any progress at Willem II and he joined AZ Alkmaar. Unfortunately El Hamdaoui then started scoring bucketloads of goals at Alkmaar, en-route to winning the Dutch title and is now one of the most coveted strikers in Europe. Whoops.

Graeme Souness

If every man can have a ‘one that got away’, so can every football club. The one that Tottenham let slip out of their grasp, was the 19-year old Graeme Souness.

Having signed as a Spurs apprentice in 1968, Souness grew frustrated at his lack of first team opportunities at White Hart Lane and even as a teenager, reputedly complained to Bill Nicholson that he was the best player at the club. Looking back with hindsight he was probably right.

With just a single Tottenham appearance to his name, Souness eventually joined Middlesbrough for £30,000, where he impressed enough to earn a transfer to reining European champions Liverpool. He won 5 league titles, 3 European cups and became the club captain.

You know how every old timer at White Hart Lane bemoans how we’ve never replaced Dave Mackay? Well we had the next best thing and let him walk away for want of giving him a chance. Can you imagine a Spurs midfield with the flair of Hoddle and Ardiles, combined with the tenacity of Souness?

The only upside of this is that at least we never had to endure Souness returning to us as manager.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I can’t argue about any of the six you’ve mentioned. Bill Nicholson also let 20-year-old Keith Weller leave Spurs in 1967, allowing him to go to Millwall. Weller later joined Chelsea, where he won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971, and then Leicester. He was probably one of Leicester’s greatest-ever players and played four times for England during his seven years at Filbert Street. Sadly, Keith passed away in 2004, aged 58.

    I also like O’Hara and like you would like to see him stay at the club. Incidentally, Graeme Souness talks about his days in the Spurs reserves in a tribute to Morris Keston in the ‘Superfan’ book. Morris was a big influence on the young Souness and tried many times to persuade him to stay at Tottenham.

    You can read the tribute on Morris Keston’s Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Morris-Keston-Tottenham-Hotspurs-legendary-fan/330879263125?ref=ts

  2. Couldn’t agree more, if we let O’Hara go permanently I’ll be very disappointed. Harry’s got a few things wrong recently, let’s hope this isn’t another!

    • Venables said he only had eyes for Man Utd really, think it was the the juniors at the highest level. It’s a bit like saying maradona played for us because he turned up for ossies testamonial.

    • Beckham just trained with us and then picked United when it came time to sign as an apprentice.

      I think Walker was an apprentice but the club gave him the push because he never used to turn up for training and instead would go fishing all the time.

      He obviously knuckled down after Spurs, because he became one of the best defenders that I have ever seen. Still, you wouldn’t muck about with Brian Clough would you?

  3. I have a feeling that Gio Dos Santos is going to bite us on the arse as well. Never understood why he was never given a run out when we play that donkey JJ. Don’t hold my breath for O’Hara, sadly. Hope I’m wrong

  4. Pompey fan here: the great thing about J O’H is the same thing I always thought about Crouchy. Here’s a man who would be happy playing football for peanuts, he does it for the sheer love of the game and I never saw either one of these blokes coast in a match. They put their heart and soul into it. There might be classier players, there might be more skilful ones but us fans love to see commitment, people trying as hard as WE would if only we were footballers and able to do something ourselves for the team that we love. The fact that Jamie came back on loan not knowing if he’d get paid from one month to the next and putting up with the crap conditions at Fratton Park makes him nearly a saint (well, not a Southampton sort of Saint, obviously). He deserves to be playing every week wherever it is. I’d love him to stay with Pompey but to be honest he deserves something a bit more stable…here’s hoping!

    • Actually I think O’Hara is still paid by Spurs – there was a report floating about when Pompey players were first not paid that O’Hara was prepared to loan his teammates some dosh as he had been paid.

  5. Other ones such as Darren Caskey, was rather large at Notts County when I last saw him play but at Reading he was banging in 20 goals a season for Midfield. I think we rather burnt him out when he first came into the team too, he could run then as well! We gave a free transfer to some defender to the Woolwich cannot remember his name but his career went downhill and played for notts county too. Mark Yeates is one who could have been more. Owen Price well he was injured but looked great on occasion. Jackson also looked ok at times. Players who drop down levels you never know what could have been, jamie Slabber is still knocking about at conference level but looked useful once.

  6. Some more to think about
    Jamie Clapham- did ok at Ipswich
    Ben Bowditch- Looked great at times
    Kerry Dixon- banged in a few goals
    Neale Fenn – tore man utd apart once didn’t score though
    Quinton Fortune – Played for man utd
    Scott Houghton- two goals with Lineker scoring the other 2 in a 4-2 win against Luton. Left to join them
    Dean Marney- looked alright
    Neil Ruddock- we signed him twice- hence pleats security guard comment
    Stephen Slade- looked great against Wimbledon once
    Andy Turner – had a bit of skill

  7. When you’ve finished playing football, young man, which is going to be very soon, I feel, you’ll make a very good security guard.” David Pleat to a 17yr old Neil Ruddock

  8. Yeah, ok, I get it when people say o’hara gives it everything every game but the truth is he isn’t good enough. If we want to achieve what we aspire to players of o’hara ability will not get us there. Good luck to the lad but he’ll never be a spurs legend.

  9. Loan players often are paid by the parent club anyhow, the receiving club pays what you may call a service charge which covers the salary and all else (or as agreed).

  10. Oharas not the most skillfull player that we have, but he does have one thing that most of our team seam to lack, that’s guts and a detemination to fight for every ball.
    We can only hope he stays, if not as a player, then maybe coach some of the other lazy sods who clearly found it too cold traveling out of London in recent weeks.

    • There is something about him that is strange, he runs like a crab, and can belt the ball in the top corner, pass 60 yards blind but still balls up a 5 yard pass

  11. I also think we should keep Jamie O’Hara. I believe he will leave though, if not for Pompey then for someone else, as I don’t think he will ever start week in week out for us, and as Hammersmithblue said, he loves to play football, so he is not the type of player that would be ok sitting on the bench cashing his paychecks. (Good for him). Good article, I’d only add that that while you are right in saying O’Hara has been playing far better for Pompey than Jenas has for us, bear in mind he has also had far more games. I’m not the biggest Jenas fan, but if the roles were reversed and JJ was at Pompey playing every week and O’Hara was playing sporadically for us, I think you’d find that JJ would be the one in better form. I never know where to stand when it comes to Jenas. I always want to like him, and sometimes he does play well, but I always get nervous when I hear his name is on the team sheet!

  12. Terrific article- well written. Having watched Spurs a long time it struck me that O’Hara could be a Perryman-type player. Every team needs at least a couple and we only have one. Dyson did a similar job in the double winning team which I was thrilled to watch. I agree with other posters: I’d rather have O’Hara giving his all than those other players who vanish from the game in those cold nights up north. For many years we have needed more guts and fight in midfield. I think O’Hara is one of those players who will develop into a solid asset to any team and he is now coming into his own. I watch the reserves when possible and have also noticed youngsters with talent but who never play for the first team. It must be discouraging when almost nobody is given the chance to make the step up. Finally, I watched Ledley in his first senior game and could see he would be a star. I feel the same about Bale – he is going to be a great player.

  13. Didnt we used to have a youngster called Sol Campbell….. whatever happened to him?

    In terms of genuine youth players (rathern than those who we bought and sold on), I see that Lee Barnard has been bought by Southampton… he scored bag loads of goals for the reserves and will do well at that level.

    Rory Allen joined Pompey for a million squid and can now be seen touring with the cricket barmy army!!

  14. Other names that spring to mind:

    John Hendry (Played 2nd fiddle to Lineker under Venables)

    Stephen Robinson – scored on debut

    Andy Turner – scored on debut, proven talent, not enough chances.

    Danny Hill (Great cross from left for Sheringham in 3-2 win over Everton)

    Darren Caskey (England U-18 Captain & Euro Championship winning side – along with Sol Campbell, Scholes et al) Played in midfield with Sol Campbell in 4-1 win over Man U at WHL and was promptly dropped for being too good & Campbell went back into central defence!
    Scored last minute winner in 3-2 win over Everton above – calmly passing the ball through a crowd of about 7 players into the far corner.

    Scott Houghton (2 long range screamers on his full debut I think, and both were featured on ‘goal of the month’ on MOTD. Dropped for being too good.

    Neale Fenn (Better than Rory Allen – lower scoring ratio, but less injury prone and better at holding the ball up)

    Dean Marney – See ‘Scott Houghton’ – again 2 screamers in a 5-2 win over a gritty Everton side, along with Reto Ziegler scoring. Marney sold to Hull as we were happy with Jermaine Jenas apparently.

    Bought but not retained for some reason:
    Erik Edman (40 yard screamer against Liverpool, and promptly sold to Wigan??)

    Reto Ziegler (Loaned out to Wigan at a time when we had injury problems at left back and left mid)

    Allan Neilsen!! (Scored the winner in the League cup under George Graham and promptly sold for being too effective?)

    Giovanni Dos Santos (Thankfully only on loan… but doesn’t look like he’s coming back – although Harry apparently ‘likes’ him.

    We seem to be one of the few clubs who ditch their youngsters too early – whether they did well or not!

    *deep breaths*

  15. I think Lee Barnard had too much of a mouth on him… didn’t seem to hold the ball up very well either, but his goal record in the reserves was pretty amazing. Worked hard enough, like O’Hara but seemed more grit than skill to me… I would have liked to have seen him get a season on the bench though.

  16. What about Simon Davies and Etherington, both outted and Davies still a Wales international and scoring for Fulham, Etherington being pushed for an England place, did we let them go too soon?

  17. Not playing Dos Santos is a big mistake, bags of class and skill but never gets a look in. Harry only has one formation and so if a player is missing he simply switchesthem, defies for meaner fir ezample. That’s why e ee caught out so often he never changes [email protected] or formation and good managers build their team to stifle that.

    Everytime I see JJ and Bentley being played I shed a tear as Bostock and Gio are far more talented and have thehunger you need to win games but don’t get a look in.

  18. When I read that O’ Hara isn’t good enough I have to ask, “Good enough for what?” To displace Jermaine Jenas in our midfield, to play alongside Palacios when we play the likes of Wolves or Stoke? To come off the bench and add bite to the midfield? Shore up the midfield when we need to protect a lead or keep the ball? Provide emergency cover at left-back in a match?

    Well, anyone have an answer? Fair enough many may deem him as a squad player, but players are squad players until they prove themselves. Huddlestone was deemed a squad player but look at him now. It takes time but it also takes matches. It is upto the player to take advantage of this. The likes of Dos Santos and Taarabt are ones who need to do this, but I also believe they came to us too young. The shitty thing about the Premiership right now is that teams like us are chasing the Top 4 and are buying players to attain that level which in-turn negates our youth players. We have some talent and I hope Redknapp keeps with his previous history and plays them. He has brought through some of the best players of the current generation.

    O’ Hara should stay and Jenas should be sold if we are to accommodate squad players.

  19. ‘Stuff’ – yeah Davies and Etherington definitely on that list… Davies should have definitely been retained as he was far more consistent – could have easily played through the middle as a late runner from midfield, and Hoddle should have been stronger and told Anderton to stay wide right.
    (I don’t know where Hoddle got this impression that Anderton was more effective in the middle – in one game I remember fuming after half time, as we were 1-0 up and coasting, after he’d been giving the opposing full back a pasting, then Hoddle thought, no we’re doing too well – I’ll put Darren in the middle and put Willem Korsten on the left instead… I think we lost 2-1)

    I didn’t include them initally as they were both bought from Peterborough, but they’re definitely in the ‘sold too early’ category.
    Davies at one point was being touted as a £10m player under Hoddle, because of the quality of the goals he was scoring – even from wide right!
    Could have been the player we’re crying out for right now with 2 holding players in the middle, and the goals all drying up!

    I always thought Espen Baardsen looked a decent keeper too… at a time when Walker was looking like a complete idiot every week! Baardsen reminded me a bit of a younger Erik Thorstvedt!

  20. PS – Etherington always looked dangerous… but like Lennon at times, his final ball was lacking. Sometimes Etherington didn’t even keep the cross in play – after beating several men down the flank!
    I would actually love to see him involved in the England squad, but just not sure about his final ball yet – and he’s a lot more experienced than Lennon now, so you wonder, will he improve THAT much? Pace is still there though, and him and Lennon in a game where the opposing full backs are sitting deep and a swamped midfield, they would be very handy!

  21. PPS – Yeah O’Hara should be held onto.
    He could come on for Palacios if we’re having trouble breaking teams down, as he can make decent runs from midfield and has a hell of a left foot shot – as well as provide cover for left back, as stated.
    Look at Bale… give them games, they will improve – most of the time!

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