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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tottenham’s prodigious 20-year-old midfielder Tom Carroll discusses his football idols and his fledgling Spurs career.
Ask Tom Carroll about his favourite players and the answers are telling: Paul Scholes, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta and Xavi – all masters of possession.
The focus is so often on the goalscorers – on the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale – but ball retention and quality in deeper-lying areas can be equally important, as Tottenham and England fans well know.
The national side’s consistent inability to string passes together is a constant cause of frustration, while Spurs are heavily reliant on Mousa Dembele’s technical qualities.
That dependence has seemingly taken its toll on the Belgian over the course of the season, leaving Tottenham fans to question who can share the load, now and in the future – and they are keeping a keen eye on Carroll’s progress.
The 20-year-old has caught the eye with his liking for quick but accurate one and two-touch football, his desire to get on the ball and his ability to pick a pass.
Excited Spurs fans have highlighted similarities with Luka Modric’s style of play and, although serious comparisons with the £27million Real Madrid man are premature, Carroll readily admits that he admires the Croatia international’s game – and that he learned a lot from him.
“Paul Scholes was always my idol growing up, I loved watching him and the way he passes the ball. He rarely misplaces a pass,” said Carroll. “Obviously he’s a bit older now but when I was younger and he was in his heyday he was really good to watch.
“It was the same with Modric when he was here and I still try to follow his progress at Madrid.
“I learned a lot from Luka when I trained with him. When he came back from an injury he trained with us in the youth team for a good few weeks and I really enjoyed that.
“It was just him, on his own, but he was still the same player with the youth team as he was with the first team. He just got about his business and got on the ball and he was just a great player to watch.
“I like to watch a few of the Barcelona lads as well - Iniesta and Xavi are great role models, and it’s great to see them playing at their best.”
As well as being pass masters, Carroll’s current favourites also share his diminutive frame. At 5ft 8ins, the Spurs midfielder is smaller than the majority of his Premier League opponents, but he has little time for the view that it takes a certain size or physique to succeed.
“I think it’s just an old-fashioned thing,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter how big you are - if you’re good enough hopefully you’ll get game time and play.
“When Luka came over [to England] people wrote him off, but obviously it didn’t show and he was outstanding so hopefully I won’t let that affect me, and I don’t think it does.
“If you look at the likes of Barcelona and Spain, they’re all technically gifted players. They pass it so quickly and they’re so sharp and creative that it’s hard to get near them, and not many people do.”
A homegrown talent, Carroll has been at Tottenham since the age of eight. His first-team debut came against Hearts in the Europa League in August 2011, and he has gone to make 21 appearances for the Lilywhites.
“It’s been a good last few years really,” he said. “I started in the reserves, doing well, and eventually got the chance to train with the first team. Then you’ve got to impress and, from there, hopefully you’re going to get some game time and luckily I’ve done that.
“I suppose it [the breakthrough] has been slow but you’ve got to realise that the players you’re competing against are top-class international players. You’ve got to be patient and you know that when you get your chance you’ve got to take it.
“The manager [Andre Villas-Boas] has been great with me. When I’ve played he just wants me to get on the ball and make things happen, to get the team playing and try to create chances as well. Hopefully I’ve done that and impressed him this year.”
Carroll is not the only Spurs prospect who is making his mark, with Jake Livermore and Steven Caulker both earning senior England caps this season, while Andros Townsend is winning plaudits in his loan spell at QPR.
“I’ve played with Andros and Steve Caulker all the way up,” said Carroll. “Steve’s been playing here now after a good season at Swansea and he’s doing really well, and Andros is obviously shining at QPR so it’s great for us, and great for the club as well that all these players are catching the eye.
“All the coaches were brilliant with us all the way up. They all worked technically with us so it’s nice for them to see us progressing into the first team too.”
Meanwhile, Carroll feels that the coaching manual is changing in England, and that the changes that are taking place in the youth ranks could bear fruit at a national level.
“I think the coaching’s probably better now and they work more on just the technical side, and not worry about the physique of lads as much,” he said. “I think that will improve them as they get older and it will help clubs, and I suppose English football.”
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