Troy Parrott looks unlikely to get a chance to excel under Jose Mourinho, but there’s an argument to suggest that he will outlast the Portuguese coach at White Hart Lane.
When news broke that Tottenham Hotspur had sacked Mauricio Pochettino and were set to appoint Mourinho, the Republic of Ireland Under-21s were about to play Sweden in a European Championship qualifier.
Troy Parrott probably wouldn’t have known when he scored the third of Ireland’s four goals on the night that there was a seismic change at his club, one that could potentially curb his meteoric rise.
There was chatter amongst the crowd on a freezing cold night at Tallaght Stadium that Troy’s chances at Tottenham had taken a blow due to Mourinho’s arrival. Everything that has played out since that night in November, bar a brief substitute appearance in the final minutes of a 5-0 win over Burnley, has suggested that Parrott may need to go somewhere else to play first-team football. Jose simply isn’t going to change his approach.
Mourinho has had plenty of opportunities to give Parrott game time. Harry Kane is injured, he won’t be back for a few months and Spurs don’t have another striker in their squad. They have had two FA Cup games against Middlesbrough in recent weeks, and a shallow squad stretched to its limits after a busy period of fixtures.
Yet, Parrott hasn’t even been on the bench since a Champions League dead-rubber tie against Bayern Munich on December 11. Tottenham’s FA Cup replay at home to Middlesbrough was the ideal occasion to start Parrott. But, again, there was no sign of him.
The Irish striker has comfortably overcome every hurdle placed in front of him so far with the club.
He has excelled in the youth team, proving that he is already a level above teammates in domestic and European competition and has carried that form into international football.
Parrott has been scoring goals for Ireland Under-21s, despite being just 17, and set-up a goal on his senior international debut against New Zealand in November.
The Dubliner is ready for first-team opportunities at Spurs or another team. If Mourinho can’t see this, then it probably it says more about him as a coach then Parrott’s ability.
Mourinho has said he doesn’t feel it’s right to put pressure on a teenager to fill Kane’s boots, and he’s right. However, no-one is suggesting the Irish striker is a direct replacement for the England captain. Rather, he could be an option off the bench for the final stages of matches when Spurs are struggling to score – which they have been.
Mourinho’s reluctance to use young attacking players is yet another sign of a manager out of sync with other top-level coaches.
The Portuguese coach actually has more in common with Mick McCarthy, Sam Allardyce or other Proper Football Men, traditional British coaches who are inherently conservative, than he does with his peers such as Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola.
The risk-averse Jose won’t countenance taking a chance on, what he views to be, a child.
Yet, Parrott turns 18 on February 4 and there are several examples of players his age and younger playing semi-regularly for Premier League teams this season.
Mason Greenwood is four-months older than Parrott but has already played over 30 times for Manchester United and scored 10 goals. Harvey Elliot is only 16 but has played five times for Liverpool this season.
Parrott is rated as highly as these players within British football.
Closer to home, three Irish strikers under the age of 20 – Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly and Michael Obafemi – have scored for Premier League clubs this season.
If these players are ready, then so is Parrott.
Football at this level is now a young man’s game. The sport is becoming ever-more physically intense, and thus young players are being given more chances. The top teams cover more ground – and at a greater intensity – than they ever have. But not Jose’s teams. His Manchester United side remained in their shells, never pressed the ball and they rarely broke from their low-block to chase down rival teams.
Mourinho’s Tottenham team doesn’t appear to be the right fit for Parrot either. There doesn’t seem to be much to Spurs beyond Toby Alderweireld aiming long balls towards where Kane would be standing if he wasn’t injured.
Essentially, Mourinho is playing old football and needs old players. You would imagine that if he could swap Parrott for Mario Mandzukic, or another veteran battering-ram centre-forward, he would. Jose’s still using his Nokia 3310 when the world has moved to smartphones. He’s not going to change his ways now.
Yet, Irish football fans, Spurs supporters and Parrott himself probably shouldn’t be overly concerned about the situation.
Yes, it would be brilliant to see him start in Kane’s absence and excel. But if the Dubliner can secure loan moves for the next 18-months, with progressive clubs at Premier League or Championship level, he will be on the right track. The player has 18 months left on his contract and the offer of a new deal on the table. Spurs will not want to lose a player of Parrott’s potential on a permanent move, especially given Kane’s injury troubles.
In all likelihood, Mourinho won’t be Spurs manager by the time Parrott turns 20. The same conservativism and dated tactical approach that prevents him from putting his faith in the young player could lead to him leaving the club at some point over the next season and a half.
At which point, maybe then Spurs and Ireland fans will get to see Parrott lead the line for Tottenham.