On Monday, Irish striker Troy Parrott found the net four times as Tottenham’s U19s demolished Red Star Belgrade 9-2 in the UEFA Youth League.
The 17-year-old was in irresistible form as Spurs’ youngsters tore their Serbian counterparts to shreds. Parrott was at the forefront as he took his record to five goals from three games in the competition.
His achievement was certainly an impressive one – there is very little ever wrong with scoring four goals for your club at any level – but it raised an important question about Parrott’s development as a player.
As he ran onto a through ball from J’Neil Bennett and confidently slotted home his first and Spurs’ second of the game, Parrott barely batted an eyelid.
When he found the net again two minutes later, the celebration was equally muted, as if scoring against this level of opposition was almost an insult to his talents.
He completed his hat-trick in the second half, but by then he had grown bored of torturing Red Star, and his fourth goal came soon after with the game essentially over as a contest.
All four of Parrott’s goals here. First one in particular very reminiscent of Harry Kane. You’d wonder how much longer he will go without first team football. pic.twitter.com/ncQcSwECM1
— Oisin McQueirns (@McQueirns) October 22, 2019
Parrott’s lack of reaction wasn’t an indication of an attitude problem or unhappiness at being at the club. Rather, it’s a sign that the ceiling upon which underage football puts on a player has been reached by the striker, despite him not turning 18 until February.
Spurs, though, find themselves in a tricky situation when it comes to what’s next for Parrott. He featured frequently for the first team in pre-season and made his senior competitive debut in the EFL Cup loss to Colchester last month, which is no mean feat considering he’s playing for last season’s Champions League runners-up.
“I think he needs time and we need to be relaxed,” said Mauricio Pochettino of Parrott last month.
“We cannot put his name every day in the spotlight because we are not going to help him.
“He’s still so young and the best way to help him is to be calm and relaxed. He’s going to be involved sometimes [with the first-team] but if he’s not, he’s going to be involved with the under-23s.”
There is the risk of pushing Parrott too soon, even if the form of some of the senior players at the club hasn’t been up to the usual standard. Even with Pochettino’s history of believing in his younger players, starting a 17-year-old in the Premier League is a massive step.
It’s clear though that his next big test will be senior football, and the question that Spurs must address is whether that will involve getting a chance in their first team, on loan at another club or away from Tottenham entirely.
Parrott is, on paper at least, Tottenham’s second choice number nine – so, they are far from stacked in that area. But if they cannot provide him with the logical step up in competition soon, a loan move may be required. Crucially though, it has to be the correct club, under the correct conditions for it to be truly worthwhile.
From the outset it would have to be a team no lower than the Championship.
Parrott is by no means timid and plays with an aggression many wouldn’t associate with him. But League One or League Two would be of little use to him.
The Championship though brings its own challenges. A team struggling to survive like a Millwall or a Barnsley would arguably be taking a big risk in putting their faith in Parrott to keep them in the division in his first taste of senior football.
Then towards the top, the quality is of a very high standard – take for example Leeds’ Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah who hasn’t yet managed to warrant a league start despite finding the net five times from the bench.
It’s also difficult to envision a team that is performing well enough to warrant a place in or around the top six will want to change too much to suit a Tottenham loanee. He would have to play, with the bench of no value to him.
A middle of the road Championship team may be a viable option, with Middlesbrough, where Robbie Keane is the assistant to manager Jonathan Woodgate, the joint-second lowest scorers in the division, a potential destination.
Keane and Pochettino have been in close contact over Parrott, as the former Irish striker outlined in June, and given their similarities the Spurs boss might see the benefit in sending him to a coach he trusts.
Boro have also struggled in front of goal this season, with their top scorer Britt Assombalonga only finding the net four times in the league in the campaign so far.
Parrott and Keane at the Riverside may be an ideal fit.
His best bet however could be a loan move to a European League like Holland or Germany where, while still playing at a high level, Parrott may be given much more of an opportunity.
Ademola Lookman at RB Leipzig, Reiss Nelson at Hoffenheim, or even go back to Jack Byrne at SC Cambuur; Premier League teenagers have impressed on the continent when given the chance.
Parrott’s skillset would translate very well to the German Bundesliga or the Dutch Eredivisie, and either could be the most logical locations in his hunt for senior football.
The alternative option could be to leave Tottenham altogether and some reports had suggested that Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Juventus have shown interest in his services.
The mind immediately wanders to Jadon Sancho’s Manchester City exit and how successful that has proven to be. But it’s easy to forget that this is only Parrott’s third season at Tottenham – and the signs are they hold him in too high a regard to even consider letting him go.
For Parrott, he finds himself at a crossroads in his career, earlier than anyone would have expected.
With his boredom at underage football evident he has three options – a loan move away from the Tottenham, stay and fight for his place at the club and take Under-23 and Under-19 games on the chin, or leave north London entirely for a new challenge.
A loan move to somewhere in Europe looks as though it could be the most beneficial next step in his ever-improving young career.