Outside of White Hart Lane, there aren’t many fans in this country who are really aware of Tom Carroll – ask a Tottenham fan about him, though, and they’ll give you a glowing reference.
The 21 year-old is that very rare English commodity: a patient, technique-based, cultured midfielder with a delightful passing range. Spurs have one of the most promising home-grown players of his generation, of that there’s no doubt.
This season Carroll was without a start in the Premier League, and was restricted to just seven substitute appearances. Andre Villas-Boas showed several times during 2012/13 a willingness to use the midfielder to change games, and to alter the passing rhythm within his midfield, but his total involvement domestically amounted to just sixty-six minutes – that, from a development standpoint, needs to increase next season and the year beyond.
Should Spurs capture their rumoured transfer targets over the Summer, then realistically their midfield depth will be far greater in 2013/14. By August, it’s possible that Carroll could be battling Sandro, Mousa Dembele, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, and Paulinho for a spot in central-midfield, and his age, level of experience, and relative ability will likely count against him in that contest.
Because of the nature of the Premier League, and the instant gratification culture within it which has been incubated by the importance of Champions League football, we’ve all grown impatient: while we appreciate developing talent and we enjoy watching it flourish, the value of wins and points is unquestionably of more value.
Essentially, there’s a decision for Spurs to make: keep Carroll at the club next season and continue on this path of gentle exposure, or farm him out to a lower-level club in the division, and give him the opportunity to play a more significant role.
This isn’t as simple as just ‘loaning a young player’, because Carroll does have an immediate – if sporadic – value to Tottenham, and his departure would leave Villas-Boas without a valuable set of attributes, but equally, his progress and adjustment to Premier League life is likely to be far quicker if his first-team minutes are dramatically increased.
This is someone who warrants a higher level of involvement, and whose talent only flies under-the-radar because he’s seen so rarely by a wider audience – maybe it’s time to change that, and for Tottenham to start cultivating his potential more aggressively?