In Focus: Tottenham's rising star is Skipping his way to the top
Oliver Skipp has been a standout performer for Tottenham in the Premier League this season.
With new boss Antonio Conte at the helm, the English midfielder continues to play a huge part in helping the North Londoners pick up results.
Due to tonight's Europa Conference League match against Rennes and Sunday's league trip to Brighton being postponed after a coronavirus outbreak, Skipp will get a well-deserved rest.
And while he has his feet up, we turn the spotlight on the academy graduate's role in Conte's squad and explore why he is such a fan favourite at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Skipp is one of the more recent homegrown products to have forced his way into the first team — following in the footsteps of club legends Ledley King and Harry Kane.
The England Under-21s ace joined the youth side in 2013 and quickly began to make a name for himself.
Skipp graduated to the U-18s in 2016 and progressed through the ranks until he made his senior debut in 2018.
At just 16, Skipp was one of the most regular performers for the U-18s in 2016-17, featuring 23 times.
A year later, he made the step up to the U-23s, appearing 16 times in the Premier League 2 and scoring his first goal in a Spurs shirt in a 3-1 win over Arsenal.
Skipp's ball-winning mentality earned him a place in the senior set-up for the club's Champions League trip to Barcelona in 2018.
Since then — aside from a successful loan spell last term at Norwich — the 21-year-old has been an ever-present in the Spurs squad and is now a regular starter.
Skipp operates in the centre of midfield and was deployed in a more defensive role under Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo.
He is excellent at retaining the ball and is difficult to dispossess.
Skipp shows a burst of pace and uses his strength to fend off opponents — something reminiscent of the role formerly played by ex-Spurs man Mousa Dembele.
Under Conte, he has been utilised in a more advanced position, with the Englishman being the main ball carrier and provider for the attack.
Although he has yet to register a goal or assist in the league this season, Skipp often provides the key pass that sets his side off on a counter-attack.
His link-up play with Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura has also helped fire Spurs back into contention for the Champions League spots under Conte.
But with a tackle success rate of just 57%, there is still room for improvement — something Conte is bound to have already identified as an area to work on.
Skipp has spent more than eight years at Tottenham, in which time he has been coached by some world-class bosses.
Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho and Conte are the three big names that have guided Skipp's development, with them all singing his praises.
Pochettino, currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, was the first to hail him. He said: "He’s a proper midfielder, a very talented midfielder.
"He links the game well, always looking forward, very aggressive, his energy is amazing and he’s such a clever guy off the pitch as well as on it."
Roma boss Mourinho spoke in a similar manner and was particularly happy with Skipp following an FA Cup penalty shootout defeat to Norwich in March 2020.
The former Spurs head coach said: "Phenomenal. Very, very good, solid performance.
"Even with the yellow card, I kept him on for two hours because he was so solid, so mature, so confident that I was never afraid of a second yellow card coming.
"He was always in control of the game."
Conte has also seen the potential in Skipp and tipped him to become one of the world's best in the future.
The Italian tactician said: "I think the present and the future depends on him.
"If he wants to become a top midfielder, he could become a top midfielder, but he has to continue to work.
"He has this will, this desire to become an important player for Tottenham, for the present and for the future."
A future England star?
Skipp has the potential to become a Spurs legend should he remain at the club during his peak years.
With plenty of time on his side, he is destined to earn his first senior England call-up sooner rather than later — but he might have to wait until after the World Cup.
Regardless, Skipp is purely focused on doing his job for Spurs.
He said: "I am not getting carried away. I have played 10 or 15 games this season.
"There are a lot of things I need to be doing to be in that mix and I am just looking forward to keep pushing and seeing where it takes me.
"I have just got to keep doing what I am doing for the club and see what happens."