In Focus: Super Skipp is living his boyhood dream at Spurs
Oliver Skipp is shining in Rodrigo Bentancur's absence as Tottenham chase a top-four finish.
The England Under-21s midfielder scored his first goal for his boyhood club in Sunday's 2-0 win over Chelsea and will be keen to cement his place in Antonio Conte's side.
Along with an impressive Premier League campaign, Spurs are still challenging for Champions League and FA Cup glory — meaning Skipp, 22, will have plenty of games to demonstrate his ability between now and May.
We turn the spotlight on one of Tottenham's own ahead of their FA Cup clash with Sheffield United tonight.
Patience is a virtue
It is often difficult for academy players to break through at a top club but Skipp is finally being rewarded for his perseverance.
The midfield anchor appeared to have established himself under Conte last season but fell out of favour when Bentancur arrived from Juventus in January 2022.
Granted, his absence in the second half of last term can be put down to injury, though it is unlikely the former Norwich loanee would have kept the Uruguay international out of the team.
But luck has seemingly favoured the expert tackler this time around and he has won the battle with Pape Matar Sarr to fill the void left by 25-year-old Bentancur, who damaged knee ligaments last month.
Having made his debut back in 2018 as a sub against Southampton, Skipp has come a long way in the 42 top-flight appearances he has made since then.
And his rise has delighted the Tottenham faithful who cherish their academy products — just ask Harry Kane.
Performing on the pitch
It is not his academy status that has earned Skipp a spot in Conte's XI but his work on the pitch.
He often acts in a more defensive role to allow Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to get forward and support the attacking players in the final third.
This season, Skipp has averaged 2.39 tackles per 90 minutes, ranking him 64th in the league, which is impressive considering he has not always been given much game time.
On top of that, Spurs' No4 has averaged 0.96 interceptions and 3.83 possessions won in the middle third — with only 19 other players trumping him on the latter.
His importance should not be undermined and selfless work in the last two games helped Spurs keep clean sheets against West Ham and Chelsea.
If Skipp can maintain his form, he may even keep summer signing Yves Bissouma out of the team when the Ivorian returns from injury.
Evolution is key
If Skipp is going to remain a part of the long-term project at Tottenham, he must continue improving.
No player at the top level will want to be a squad member forever and succeeding at a club like Spurs is incredibly difficult when they are always on the lookout for new recruits.
Former Inter Milan boss Conte expects his central midfielders to perform in both halves of the pitch and Skipp has demonstrated he does have some attacking flair.
Compared to Skipp's one, Bentancur and Hojbjerg have accumulated 14 Premier League goal contributions between them.
His performance on Sunday outshone Chelsea's record signing Enzo Fernandez but what separates the good from the great in England's top flight is consistency.
So while Skipp's defensive work is top-notch, the Welwyn Garden-born star still has work to do on his passing and shooting.
Following his strike against the Blues, Spurs asked their first-teamers to comment on Skipp's goal and his overall presence within the squad.
First up was Hojbjerg, who said: "Skippy is a young man with great potential but he also has a mindset where he continues to work hard and continues to give his best. This is the greatest compliment I can give him."
Ben Davies added: "We couldn't have been happier. It's so well deserved. It was an amazing strike.
"We've been on him in training when he's had a few. But when he was lining this one up, all the practice he's had has finally come right."
Last but by no means least, Kane said: "We work a lot in training on finishing from the edge of the box, second balls, and he's been working hard, I'm so delighted it paid off."
It seems all of his team-mates are rooting for Skipp to succeed but it will be down to him to make his mark in North London.