Tom Carroll signed a new deal with Tottenham in mid-September, seemingly keeping him at the club until 2019. But how much weight does this contract actually hold as he struggles for appearances and game time in the strongest Spurs squad of the Premier League era? Carroll was exceedingly average when given a rare starting opportunity in an attacking midfield role during Spurs’ League Cup clash with Liverpool. He is unlikely to have any better chances to show off his capabilities this season.
It is 5 years since Carroll made his senior debut for Spurs, the academy graduate with a bright future at his local club. In the half decade to follow, Carroll has experienced a series of unfulfilling loan spells, whilst several other home-grown talents have either overtaken him, come and gone, or in some cases both. Yet Carroll remains, barely on the fringes of the Tottenham squad given recent additions, and having played less than one minute of Premier League football during the first quarter of a season.
Clubs need squad players of course, and Carroll is exactly that, but he has been a career squad player. Performances like Tuesday night at Anfield are symptomatic of his time at the club. A performance whereby he was unable to create, drive forward with any real purpose, put any pressure on Liverpool’s shaky defensive unit. Rather, Carroll looks satisfied playing a simple, short passing game without any real purpose.
Carroll’s new contract appears nothing but a smart business decision by Daniel Levy, at least at this very moment. It is common knowledge that Levy is loath to let any player’s agreement run down to the last year (or two) since this decreases their on-sell value significantly. So a contract does not necessarily prevent Spurs from moving Carroll on; if anything it could be setting things up in the background for this to occur. Where many of his teammates have signed 4 or 5 year deals in the last two months, perhaps it is pertinent that Carroll’s was strictly 3 years; as an aid to maximise any potential transfer fee.
Youngster Harry Winks has surely overtaken Carroll in the pecking order. While Carroll has shown (at least on the pitch if not behind closed doors) little evidence of development in recent times, Winks already looks the better player. It is hard enough to see Winks getting decent playing time that he clearly deserves, so Carroll’s minutes look like diminishing even further. If that is possible. Given Winks is also four years younger, the elder man is very near reaching the status of “surplus to requirements.” If he is not there already.
Carroll’s situation is not simple, much like that of Ryan Mason, his junior teammate who departed for Hull City in the summer. Carroll and Mason each invested so much of their lives at Tottenham, that the thought of leaving must be heart-wrenching as well as challenging for the mind to comprehend. Yet Mason, who did make such strides in his many years at Spurs to the point of being a first choice player two seasons ago, showed that he was not willing to simply accept squad player status.
A competitive desire to play and impact a team regularly, a level of professionalism and hunger that meant he would not be satisfied filling in during Cup games or injury crises. These are the traits that Mason showed in his gutsy move to Hull City. Perhaps some saw it as a step down, but he is a footballer who wants to play and make the most of his mid-20s on the pitch. Carroll must surely ask the same questions of himself that Mason needed to. Does he want to play regularly for a club and at a level that suits his ability, or accept a pay cheque at Tottenham?