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Oliver Skipp open to Tottenham exit but any transfer will hand Ange Postecoglou a major problem

Oliver Skipp is keen to get regular game time next season even if that means heading out of Tottenham, football.london understands, but to do so the north London outfit would have to find a way to absorb his loss as a club-trained homegrown player.

The 23-year-old academy product reached the landmark of 100 appearances for the first team this season, ending the campaign with 109 games, however the lack of matches in Spurs' fixture calendar with no European football meant reduced opportunities for players like Skipp and his development has slowed as a result.

He has impressed at times, including a starring role against Manchester United at Old Trafford, despite having been ill in the week leading up to the game.

However, the midfielder started just five Premier League matches this season as well as one in each of the domestic cup competitions and he even played a couple of games at left-back late in the season to help out Ange Postecoglou's injury-ravaged team. However, for much of February, March and April, Skipp did not get a single minute of football to his name and missed out on six matchday squads during that period.

It has been a tough season for the former England U21 midfielder, with just 861 minutes of football, less than half of his game time in the previous campaign and he managed even more, 2,006 minutes, in the season before, despite missing the final three months of that term after requiring surgery on his pubic bone.

Skipp was one of the most heralded academy players at the club in recent years with a string of managers predicting big things for him. The young midfielder was faced with a similar situation in 2020 to the one he has now before heading off to Norwich for a Championship-winning loan spell in which he was a key player for the Canaries.

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Ahead of that move Jose Mourinho told football.london: "I think he's genuinely Tottenham's future. He's one of these players by human quality, by personality, he is one of these kids that I have no doubt he will be an important player for Tottenham. Sometimes coaches are selfish and I told him that.

"I never told him I want him to go on loan, I always told him I wanted him to stay here, because that's the selfish perspective of a coach who wants the best possible squad. In his mind he wants to go on loan, six months, the whole season. He feels that he needs that, I also feel that would be good for his evolution, so maybe that is the direction we go.

"I think he can be more than a player, he can be a future captain here. Hugo [Lloris], Harry [Kane], I see this kid being one day a future captain here by his character, by his personality."

After that loan at Norwich, where he played almost every minute in the centre of the park for them as a battling box-to-box midfielder, Skipp returned as a regular starter under Nuno Espirito Santo and then Antonio Conte before that long injury lay-off.

Espirito Santo, a man of few words, admitted that "I like Skipp very much and I think you can see it", while Conte, after the midfielder starred for him against Brentford, said: "This player is very young. He has really a lot of space for improvement. He played with great intensity, great passion, with heart, with soul. I think it was important because for me he doesn’t care if he’s only 21-years-old, who deserves to play.

"I think that I can improve him a lot in possession and technically, to look before the play that they have to do. We’re talking about an important prospect and I'm very happy for him, but now he has to continue in this way."

He added: "For sure, the part that he has to improve is with the ball but in one month I have seen a lot of improvement about Skippy. He’s a player who wants to improve. I think that the present and the future depends on him. If he wants to become a top midfielder, he could become a top midfielder, but he has to continue to work. He has this will, this desire to become an important player for Tottenham and for the present and for the future."

After Skipp scored twice against Barcelona in Postecoglou's first pre-season last year, the Australian lavished praise on the academy product's few weeks working under him.

"He has been outstanding. Obviously he didn't have much of a break but since he's been in he's got bags of energy and he uses that really well. He maintains an intensity with and without the ball that makes him hard to contend with," he said. "He was outstanding tonight. He got a significant knock early but battled through it and that shows the character of him."

The problem for Skipp under Postecoglou is that the new head coach does not appear to see him as a number six within his system, which is his more natural position, so instead has used him as a number eight at times which requires more attacking demands of the player.

Postecoglou and his coaches used Skipp's versatility to train him up as a makeshift left-back after losing Destiny Udogie and Ben Davies, with varying degrees of success in the role against Liverpool and Burnley. In the club's post-season friendly against Newcastle in Melbourne, Skipp played as a centre-back for a chunk of the second half.

With Europa League football next season and more fixtures, Postecoglou was asked by football.london this month whether Skipp was part of his plans going forward.

"Yeah, I don’t see any reason why not. He probably feels like he could have played more this year. With the way the season has gone for us in terms of our games programme, he has probably been one of the ones who has suffered because we haven’t been able to get the game time rotations we need through the year. But yeah, I see Skippy as part of our future," said the Tottenham boss.

The problem is that Skipp wants more than the odd minute here and there. As with the loan season at Norwich, he needs a full campaign playing almost every minute to ensure his development does not stutter to a halt and a number of Premier League clubs and those abroad will be paying close attention to his situation.

Spurs would have to be convinced that any move was in their best interest, because the issue with Skipp is that he is a rare and necessary commodity within the first team - a senior club-trained player.

For the Europa League next season, Tottenham will require, as a minimum, eight of their 25 squad places to be reserved exclusively for 'locally trained players', with four of them association-trained and four club-trained. Club-trained players are those who were on their books for three entire seasons or 36 months between the ages of 15 and 21.

With Harry Kane and Harry Winks' exits last summer, Spurs' senior club-trained players are now only Skipp, Brandon Austin, Alfie Whiteman, Troy Parrott and Japhet Tanganga. Austin has just signed a new five-year contract but there are doubts over the future of the rest of that group, with Parrott and Tanganga in particular expected to depart this summer.

Skipp's club-trained status and the difficulty in letting him leave was put to Postecoglou last month.

"We're quite comfortable in that situation. Decisions about individual players will all be made in the context of what's good for the club and what's good for the player and hopefully there's some sort of alignment there," he said. "Sometimes there isn't. From our perspective we're comfortable that with the squad we have we'll make decisions that are going to be beneficial for us in terms of our growth."

Skipp needs game time next season in order to fulfil that early promise that earned such praise from his managers and heading out of the nest again looks the best way to do that, if Tottenham can find a away to absorb his departure.

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