Amid the growing gloom around Tottenham, a shining light for the club this season has been Stuart Lewis’ academy side.
While fierce debate surrounds first-team matters in N17, there are two cup finals on the horizon for a group of teenagers who have juggled five competitions this term.
Lewis’ under-18s have featured in the Premier League South, FA Youth Cup, UEFA Youth League and two League Cup tournaments.
There has been rough with the smooth, as is often the case with development football, but in the home stretch Spurs can win two trophies.
The first chance occurs on Wednesday when they travel to the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest in the Under-17 Premier League Cup Final before doing battle with Aston Villa at Villa Park in the under-18 equivalent on May 4.
“It would be great if we could do the double and it would be testament for all the hard work the boys have put in throughout the season,” Lewis told the PA news agency.
“We’ve had some tough times along the way but to see individuals develop and push on as people as well as players has been outstanding.
“There is a real energy and buzz around the group.
“Obviously we’re still in development football so we’re always challenging the boys to work on all aspects of their game and their learning capacity, but it has been good for them to be exposed to two semi-finals and now two finals.
“As well as the boys showing real improvement on the training pitch, it has been rewarded with two massive cup finals at really historic English football grounds that we can’t wait for as a group.”
Lewis is assisted at Spurs by coaches from differing backgrounds and of varying ages with Jermain Defoe, Bradley Allen and Paul Bracewell all involved in helping the under-17s and under-18s not only on the pitch, but off it too.
Success can be measured in a number of ways and seven players recently signed professional terms at Tottenham, while they are fourth in Premier League South despite seeing players regularly promoted to the under-21s.
It has not been all plain sailing, with some tough results in the UEFA Youth League and a painful FA Youth Cup exit to QPR at Stevenage in December.
“There was a disappointment with the FA Youth Cup because of the belief we have in these players as a group, but we’ve used that as sort of motivation,” Lewis said.
“We’ve used it as a driver in our big quarter-finals and semi-finals and now for the two finals. We’ve used it to drive standards.
“I think they learned loads from that evening at Stevenage and they have actually grown for that.”
The end goal for Lewis and his staff remains to find the next star for the Spurs first team and he is proud of the strides made in recent years.
“Our aim is to produce Champions League-level footballers. We’ll always try to do that,” the ex-Spurs academy graduate explained.
“I’ve been here a long time and worked with the likes of Alfie Devine and Romaine Mundle in recent times but also Oli Skipp, Japhet Tanganga and Marcus Edwards, who went on to another club.
“We’re always looking for the next one and trying to produce them as much as we can, also challenging their habits like an elite player.
“And we’re fortunate to have our own one here in Harry Kane, who is a brilliant example.
“Some of our players are lucky enough to train with Harry and others and we’re always speaking to them about learning from the best. Obviously we’re so fortunate we have got him in the building.”
Lewis’ own journey with Tottenham started in 2004, when he joined as a player, but he has been a fan for life.
After spells in English football’s lower leagues, he returned to Spurs as a coach in 2015 before earning the role of under-18 boss in 2021.
It took a penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea to secure the under-17s a place in Wednesday’s final and the first of two attempts to bring silverware back to an academy who have previously won the FA Youth Cup on three occasions.
“To play under floodlights at iconic English stadiums with a lot of history, they are great evenings for the boys, their families, for us and for the academy, but ultimately we want to win,” Lewis said.
“We want to experience that feeling of winning so that is at the forefront of our minds, but it is such great exposure for our players.
“These are great evenings to test their personality and courage in big games.”
:: You can watch Tottenham’s academy in the Under-17 Premier League Cup Final on April 19 and in the Under-18 Premier League Cup Final on May 4 live on the club’s SPURSPLAY platform.