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The lessons Tottenham wonderkid Mikey Moore can learn from those who came before him

Tottenham have a very talented teenager on their hands in Mikey Moore but there is a long road that leads talent to the top level and it is beset with detours, distractions and danger.

The 16-year-old with his finishing, creativity and dribbling ability has been creating a real buzz around the club in the past two years in particular and last summer when Spurs tied him down to his first professional contract, which kicks in on his 17th birthday this August, it was seen a real coup within the game with plenty of clubs chasing Moore in the upper echelons of the Premier League.

Spurs committed to ensuring his development through to the first team if his own progress matched that and sure enough on May 14 last month, the teenager became the youngest player to play for Tottenham in the Premier League at 16 years and 277 days when he stepped on to the pitch late in the defeat against Manchester City.

It actually came towards the end of a season that had not gone particularly smoothly for the youngster. Talented dribblers are often on the receiving end of injuries through challenges by desperate defending. On international duty for England U17s he fractured his fibula and nose in a collision with an opposition goalkeeper and then only a month or so after returning to action, Moore injured his ankle ligaments during an U18s match.

Those injuries robbed the attacker of a couple of opportunities to step up from Stuart Lewis' U18s into Wayne Burnett's U21s. Yet as fate would have it, with injuries biting Ange Postecoglou's first team squad and three left wingers out in Timo Werner, Manor Solomon and Ivan Perisic having left injured on loan to Hajduk Split, Moore was initially called up for a handful of sessions across the training complex at Hotspur Way for the senior coaching staff to take another look at him.

As had happened before one of those previous injuries, Postecoglou liked what he saw and those couple of days again were extended to weeks as the 16-year-old held his own against the first team stars. This time he remained with the group until the season ended at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane, where he made his second appearance in the Premier League. He could be seen pointing and telling his more experienced team-mates where to go and pass the ball at times despite his tender years.

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"I really appreciate everyone that's come into the squad, even young players like Mikey Moore who has been training with the group and working really hard, it’s great to see these kinds of things," said captain Son Heung-min as the season came to a close.

Postecoglou was even more impressed with the teenager, telling football.london: "Mikey has been really good. Look he's a very talented boy and for him, he's had a fairly disrupted season, he's had a couple of injuries. When he's performed, he's performed really well. The reports I've had on him have always been outstanding. It's been good to have him.

"Obviously we've had a couple of weeks without a game and it's been good to get him involved in the first team. Again, to be fair to him he has adapted really well, he hasn't looked out of place and it's great for him. Hopefully it gives encouragement to him and some of the other guys who are coming through."

Moore went on to star for England at the U17 European Championships against the continent's best and he is expected to be taken with the first team on their summer tour of Japan and South Korea this summer.

The key now for the youngster is to keep his head down, work hard and learn from the mistakes or unfortunate circumstances of those who came before him. The decisions made by those young 'wonderkids' and those around them proved to be as crucial to their development as steering clear of injuries.

Spurs have had their share of special talents in the academy, those who have looked to emulate the journey of Harry Kane to become Tottenham and England's greatest goalscorer. Ask any academy coach at any club and they will tell you of a 14-year-old who is going to become a great. It's the dream.

Those in the press conference room at Hotspur Way in September 2016 can still remember the look on the press officer's face when Mauricio Pochettino put young winger Marcus Edwards and Lionel Messi in the same sentence together before the 17-year-old had even stepped on to the pitch for the first team.

"The qualities - it's only looks, his body and the way that he plays - remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi," Pochettino said before quickly hurling Erik Lamela into the equation as another comparison but the damage was done and the headlines written.

Edwards would only ever play 15 minutes of football for Tottenham in an admittedly exciting cameo in the League Cup win against Gillingham that same week. Pochettino would later write in his book about the teenager having behavioural issues that would eventually lead to his exit from the club and the Argentine admitted he regretted that ill-fated Messi comparison that only heaped the pressure on the youngster.

Almost eight years on and Edwards has rebuilt his career and starred for Sporting CP last season in the Portuguese league and Champions League and won Liga Portugal with Ruben Amorim's side this time around despite more of a bench role in the second half of the campaign.

football.london reported last week that Spurs are keeping an eye on the now 25-year-old's situation as one potential option this summer as they look to fix a lack of club-trained players in their squad. They hold a 35% sell-on clause still for Edwards, who with two years left on his contract is understood to be valued at £15million (17.6million euros) before further add-ons that would lift that price tag slightly. That 35% sell-on cut would take the initial base figure to around £9.75million.

There are also those who felt the grass was greener elsewhere. Eighteen months younger than Edwards and at the club around the same time was prolific striker Reo Griffiths. In the 2017/18 season, the teenage forward smashed in 27 goals in 20 U18 matches and hit 30 goals across the season as a whole.

The 18-year-old's involvement in the UEFA Youth League brought him to the attention of plenty of Europe's top clubs, including PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona and RB Leipzig, but it was Lyon who lured him away towards the end of that season, as he turned down a professional deal with Tottenham for the promise of a clearer pathway to the first team in France.

That never came. Griffiths played for Lyon's youth side and B team without breaking through, before returning to England in 2022 to play for Doncaster Rovers, where he was loaned to National League side Yeovil Town the next season for a brief spell. In November last year, his contract at Rovers was cancelled by mutual consent.

Griffiths ended up playing Sunday league football for a while last season in order to get his fitness up before playing once for National League side Wealdstone in an FA Trophy match. The striker, who turns 24 later this month, is now in the third tier in MLS with Portland Timbers 2 and has recently had surgery on his Achilles tendon.

One example of a 16-year-old Tottenham wonderkid whose career slid out from under him through no real fault of his own was Terry Dixon.

He was a generational talent with the world at his feet, with word of mouth spreading about "the Irish Wayne Rooney" across the game. He was called up to the senior Republic of Ireland squad before he'd even made a first team appearance for Spurs and Martin Jol had him working with his squad alongside the likes of Robbie Keane and Edgar Davids despite his age, similar to what Postecoglou has done with Moore today.

Yet three horrendous knee injuries, the first two almost back to back, including a dislocated kneecap and every possible ligament torn, began the slide in his career from such an early age. Dixon admitted to football.london in a brutally honest and emotional interview back in 2020 that depression and alcohol issues kicked in as he saw his dream snatched away from him.

Dixon was later asked if he would return to Tottenham to speak to the club's then exciting young teenager Troy Parrott about the pitfalls of life as a wonderkid.

For Moore, the pathways of Parrott and another Spurs attacker Dane Scarlett deliver more present and recent examples of the long path that is rarely straight forward for gifted youngsters.

'Throw him in' or 'if you're good enough, you're old enough' are phrases often bandied around by fans when it comes to 16-year-olds they've heard of or seen clips of, mostly accompanied by the justifying names of the only generational superstars who proved those statements to be true at that age, like Wayne Rooney.

For most teenagers though, it's not that simple. Parrott was seen as the next Robbie Keane as a 16-year-old and was often heralded as the best natural finisher inside Tottenham as a youngster, even while Kane was there. Yet it is only this season on loan in the Eredivisie at 22-years-old when he has hit a real developmental spurt after failing to build on a handful of appearances under Pochettino and Jose Mourinho and even then his future looks like it lies away from north London with AZ Alkmaar keen to take him to the Netherlands permanently after he hit 17 goals for struggling Excelsior Rotterdam.

Scarlett, who Moore replaced as the club's youngest Premier League player, has been lauded by Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Postecoglou over recent years as a major talent - Mourinho tipping him to be a future England star - yet his loan spells at Portsmouth and Ipswich have been tough.

Still only 20, Scarlett's career remains stretched out ahead of him and he will be looking for that moment when it all clicks like Parrott has found this year.

For Moore, he just needs to work hard, remain patient, enjoy being a 16-year-old and learn the lessons of those who came before him. He is mature for his age, with a good family unit around him and Tottenham, Postecoglou and the academy staff who have nurtured him will look after him in the months and years ahead to ensure he develops at the right pace. There are few things worse in football than squandered talent.

Spurs fans deserve to see another star emerge from within their own walls and young Mikey Moore has every chance of realising that hope but fate and his own decisions will have the biggest say on what comes next.

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