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Exclusive: Joe Pritchard talks Spurs, 'golden boy' Kane and Pochettino methods

Accrington Stanley midfielder Joe Pritchard spent 14 years at Tottenham Hotspur, joining the academy as an 8-year-old and leaving in the summer of 2018.

Although a serious leg break as a teenager limited Pritchard's development path, the midfielder was captain of the Under-23s and spent a lot of time training with the first team squad.

He spoke to Tribal Football this week to give us a behind-the-scenes view of what it was like to train under Mauricio Pochettino and alongside the likes of Harry Kane.

"With Pochettino, you walk in every morning and every first team player you'd see you had to shake their hand and say hello," Pritchard said of the younger players mingling with the seniors. "His people-person philosophy when he came to the club brought everyone together. If you went into the physio room you'd say hello to every person, even if it was just to get ice out of the fridge."

Along with ensuring the players built relationships with each other, Pochettino was also keen to show there was a clear path for the youngsters into the first team.

"So you'd develop a relationship with the first team players, and then it was just a case of working hard because you might get a chance to work with them. Quite often we used to train with the first team. It was brilliant.

"It was really good to see it was possible, if you did it right and were good enough, that you would get that chance."

Pochettino didn't take the coaching sessions, but instead watched from the sidelines and relayed details to his staff. And Pritchard was full of praise for the intensity and technical detail of training sessions at Tottenham.

He said the step up from the Under-23s to the senior team was stark, and a big learning curve for some.

"I used to love the intensity," he added. "The detail was fantastic, it was everything you could imagine. Even just doing rondos, the coaches would stop it just to move one player's shoulders into a different position so they could see more of the players in the circle.

"I remember when the Under-23 lads would come back to our changing room [from the senior setup], and the academy manager would come in and say, 'We've spoke to the first team staff and a few of you aren't warming up properly. Playing with the first team is a privilige; you should be fully at it all the time.'"

The Accrington midfielder said he was never personally accused of lacking effort, but nevertheless the scrutiny of each player's actions caused some trepidation.

"And everyone was left thinking, 'Cor, maybe I didn't lift my leg high enough…' It was that level of detail."

Nobody embodies those standards more than Harry Kane. Pritchard opened up on just how special the England player is, leading the team by example.

"He was the golden boy," he said. "He had such a big influence on the team, you could see it when he walked around the training ground. He has such an aura about him and it was unbelievable to watch.

"But in training, his attention to detail, his knowledge of how to work a defender and how to find space to shoot, and the technique of his finishing, was impeccable. I could not believe it sometimes.

"You'd be training and you'd try and block a shot and he'd bend it round you into the top corner, and you'd think, 'Oh, I didn't stretch enough to block it'. So next time, you'd stretch to block it and he'd put it through your legs into the other corner!

"You'd just think, 'This guy – he finds a way.' His technique, his body position, is always ready. That's one thing I'll never forget. He always found a way."

Pritchard also spoke fondly of a player he knew very well at Spurs, Harry Winks.

"I knew Winks from the age of 6. I used to play with Harry in the age group above me, so I used to be in his shadow through a lot of my career. whenever I was playing up an age group it would always be under him and with him.

"From a young age he was unbelievable, and I used to look up to him all the time, thinking, 'I want my passing to be that good'. He went all the way and that is no surprise because of how good he was."

Alex Keble
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Alex Keble

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