Most 17-year-old boys in the 21st century don’t exactly have a glittering football career lined up for them. Perhaps their biggest footballing achievement has been conquering Division One on FIFA – mine certainly is. But aged just 17, Marcus Edwards has already made his senior debut for Spurs against Gillingham, and similarities have been made by manager Mauricio Pochettino to a certain Lionel Messi. Much hype has been given to the youngster, but most fans won’t recognise the name.
So, an introduction. Spurs youth blogger Chris Miller has said that Edwards is the best player in England for his age group. Such praise isn’t an exaggeration – I have watched Edwards this season in the ‘PL2’, playing against defenders potentially six years his elder. And yet Edwards isn’t bullied off the ball. He’s technically gifted, intelligent on the ball and possesses the rare ability to waltz past defenders as if they aren’t there. Opposition managers in the youth league are well aware of his talent, with the Everton U23 side doubling up on Edwards in order to crowd him out of the game.
Then he came on against Gillingham for the senior team, and so there will be greater interest in him. He demonstrated his talents quickly; a mazy run in from the right-hand side resulted in a shot that was well saved by the Gills’ goalkeeper. Edwards is a lively player, and also one who doesn’t shy away from the ball. Spurs fans will certainly be looking for Edwards’ first team appearances to increase over the next season, and hopefully he will not be restricted to the final minutes in cup games.
However, he is not ready for the Premier League yet. A quick look at his slim, 5’5″ build will show that comparisons to Messi are much more accurate than to the best winger of the Premier League era in Cristiano Ronaldo. Physically, Edwards may be somewhat lacking; he will undoubtedly get bullied with regards to his physicality if he’s thrown into Premier League games as it stands. Of course, it is rare for young players to be the finished article physically – Josh Onomah lacks brute strength and perhaps this is why his first team minutes have been very restricted so far this season. Edwards must take heart from the fact that Pochettino has him training with the first team regularly; he is clearly technically good enough to play in the Premier League, but must improve other areas of his game before he can be considered the finished article.
Edwards isn’t going to feature regularly for Spurs yet. He shouldn’t be expected to, because of his age, but he will certainly be part of Spurs’ plans going forwards. But there is no doubting that Pochettino recognises the ridiculous talent that Edwards possesses, and the winger must surely recognise that Tottenham Hotspur is the best place in the country to be at to turn potential into reality. And the truth is that Edwards has the potential to be a record-breaker. It’s so, so rare for this much excitement to surround one player, and someone with Edwards’ potential ability only comes around once a generation. So, who knows? Edwards may scale the footballing heights that are currently only occupied by Ronaldo and Messi, with Neymar and former Spur Gareth Bale close behind.
Above all, Edwards should excite not just every Spurs fan out there, but also the England national set-up. He could just be the spark required to bring back glory to the national side a few years down the line.