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Spurs and Ryan Sessegnon – much ado about nothing

You might not admire Daniel Levy, but have to chuckle at his consistency. Tottenham have just lost the north London derby, when the punditocracy was beginning to talk of the famed gap between the red and white sides of the rivalry growing in their direction, and drew disappointingly with West Brom at the weekend. There are a few rumbles in the fan base and some supporters have even questioned whether Mauricio Pochettino, one of the most progressive coaches in the game, is all that.

Levy is a master of communication and subterfuge well beyond the world of sport – famed for pulling off great deals. Fulham fans of course have bitter experience of how he snared Mousa Dembele at the last knockings of the 2012 transfer window and would, therefore, have eyed yesterday morning’s Telegraph report that Spurs had installed Ryan Sessegnon as their one number one target to replace the ‘fuming’ Danny Rose with great trepidation. Given the way the modern sports media works, it was soon blasting around cyperspace, social media and leading Sky Sports News, with a special package heading the hourly bulletin.

As ever, the substance behind the story is difficult to find. Levy and Spurs did their best to try and rattle Fulham earlier in the year, briefing to the same paper that they’d placed a £25m bid for Sessegnon, having been one of a host of leading clubs disappointed when one of the country’s most coveted young players signed his first professional contract with a Championship club. No formal offer was received by Fulham – this was merely a test balloon floated to see if whispers of teaming up with Tottenham and Pochettino could tempt the teenager away.

Sessegnon, who along with his twin brother Steven has been with Fulham since the age of eight, was mature enough to recognise that, whilst he could have easily swapped Motspur Park for a Premier League club in the summer off the back of his astonishing exploits during his breakthrough season in senior football, learning his craft at a club committed to providing the pathway through to the first team for their young starlets was best for his development. He’s been a regular in Slavisa Jokanovic’s side this season, starting at left back, and scored that sensational hat-trick at Sheffield United – which seems to have started off a new round of frenzied speculation.

Matt Law’s piece proclaims that Sessegnon is above Luke Shaw in Pochettino’s pecking order to replace Rose, who is apparently destined to join Manchester United in January. The report builds on the Mail’s revelation at the weekend that there’s no minimum release fee clause in the deal that Sessegnon signed over the summer, but adds that Fulham struggle to retain the youngster should they fail to reach the Premier League in May, which seems like a bold claim given that he was happy to sign on after the play-off heartbreak. Why might this link come now, at a time when Spurs are worried about being left behind in the league again? Could it be because Manchester United have been linked with a £35m move for Sessegnon in the new year?

Perhaps the most intriguing part comes at the end, where Law writes:

But Tottenham believe Pochettino’s record of bringing through talented English youngsters puts them in a strong position for Sessegnon’s signature.

Pochettino has undoubtedly cultivated the talents of Harry Kane, Dele Ali and Harry Winks in the past couple of years, but you don’t have to cast your mind back too far to see how Spurs’ jettisoned the careers of several English talents. Sessegnon could just ask the last local boy to come through the academy – a midfielder who played in all four divisions for the club, represented England at youth level, and enjoyed cult hero status with the fans.

Sean Davis had his head turned at the height of his powers and, after a standoff, swapped west London for White Hart Lane, whereupon his promising career failed to take off. The man who amassed 188 appearances for the Whites, scoring goals at Blackburn and at home to Sheffield Wednesday that ensured Fulham would return to the Premier League having been given his senior debut by Micky Adams as he was resurrecting the club in the bottom tier four years earlier, would tell Sessegnon to learn from his experience and stay put.

Fortunately, Fulham’s hottest property is a man whose maturity and intelligence belies his tender years. He has a genuine appreciation for the club that have given him and his Steven their chance to shine and clearly loves the affinity developing between him and the Fulham fans. That doesn’t mean to say we can book in his testimonial at Craven Cottage for 2026 but it might suggest that we are dealing with a different character to Moussa Dembele, who moved to Celtic for a nominal fee two years ago, having benefited from the Motspur Park finishing school or even Pat Roberts.

The best summation of Sessegnon’s career prospects came in this weekend’s Football League paper from Adam Virgo (pictured left), who advised Gareth Southgate to consider picking the Fulham prospect in his next England squad. That might be a little premature considering Sessegnon hasn’t even had an under-21 call-up yet, but if Southgate, who knows his history, wants to return from Russia with silverware next summer he will have to fast track a Fulham player into his plans at some point.

Hayles stuns Spurs

Boyhood Tottenham fan Barry Hayles stunned White Hart Lane into silence as scored a brace and made another as Fulham stormed to their first win at Spurs since 1948. The popular striker – preferred to Louis Saha today – was charged with ‘messing the Tottenham defence about’ by manager Chris Coleman and he staked a claim for a regular starting spot after the departure of Steve Marlet with one of the finest performances of his career.

It was particularly galling for Glenn Hoddle, who cut a beleaguered figure on the touchline, whom Hayles describes as his footballing hero. The hosts looked a shadow of the side who had taken four points from two tough fixtures against Liverpool and Leeds – hurt by injuries but remarkably devoid of invention and, perhaps more damningly, much fight. Spurs looked lacklustre in midfield and hardly laid a glove on their west London opponents after Edwin van der Sar had blocked Freddie Kanoute’s early effort following a promising run from Rohan Ricketts.

Fulham’s football was incisive from the off and they swiftly served notice that they weren’t going to be putting men behind the ball. Kasey Keller made an instinctive save from Steed Malbranque after Luis Boa Morte had shredded the Tottenham defence on the counter. Hayles had cut an isolated figure up front in the early exchanges but burst into life when released by a through ball from Lee Clark, beating both Dean Richards and Anthony Gardner for pace, before clinically finishing past Keller. The visitors took heart from the goal and might have been further in front by the break had Hayles’ intelligent chip had a little more height. Spurs, booed off at half-time, created little with Edwin van der Sar saving smartly from Ledley King’s speculative strike.

Helder Postiga headed against a post midway through the second half, but Fulham were growing in confidence with every passing minute. They put together several probing passing moves but the crucial second goal owed everything to a calamitous Tottenham error. Darren Anderton’s dreadful pass played Richards into serious trouble, Hayles stripped him of possession and fired home from the edge of the area. Four minutes later, it was three. Hayles turned provider this time, surging down the left and beating Richards again, before sending in a low centre that ex-Arsenal winger Boa Morte gleefully tapped home. It was the culmination of a fine team move started by full back Jerome Bonnissel before Malbranque combined effortlessly with Hayles to prize open the Spurs defence.

The scoreline hardly flattered Fulham, who were fantastic throughout. Indeed, Coleman’s men could and should have extended their advantage as they poured forward in the closing stages, with Clark and Louis Saha squandering good chances to add to Tottenham’s embarrassment.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (3-5-2): Keller; King (Zamora 45), Richards, Gardner; Carr, Davies (Anderton 58), Ricketts, Redknapp, Tarrico; Postiga, Kanoute. Subs (not used): Burch, Bunjevcevic, Marney.

FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bonnissel, Goma, Knight; Legwinski, Inamoto, Clark; Malbranque, Boa Morte, Hayles (Saha 73). Subs (not used): Crossley, Leacock, Buari, Sava.

BOOKED: Inamoto, Volz.

GOALS: Hayles (23, 67), Boa Morte (71).

REFEREE: Jeff Winter (Cleveland).

ATTENDANCE: 33,421.