Mikey Moore – Spurs and England’s ‘special talent’, and what could come next

Whatever happens during the rest of his career, Mikey Moore will never forget how special May 2024 was.

At the beginning of the month he was a highly-rated prospect in Tottenham Hotspur’s academy and by the end he has become the youngest player in their history to make a Premier League appearance. Moore broke the record, which was held by his team-mate Dane Scarlett, when he came off the bench in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on May 14. He was only 16 years, nine months and three days old.

To top things off, over the last fortnight he played a starring role for England at the Under-17 European Championship. He scored four goals during the group stages, including a stunning solo effort against France, which you can see below, to help England progress to the last eight.

In the quarter-finals, against Italy on Thursday, he provided a sensational assist for Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri to open the scoring but, after the game finished 1-1, England were knocked out on penalties.

Moore has been in excellent form for Tottenham’s youth sides over the last couple of years and the hype around him is building, but what happens next? Could he become a reliable first-team option for Ange Postecoglou next season, or is a little more patience required?

Moore was born in the south London borough of Southwark and went to school at the Strood Academy in Kent. He joined Spurs when he was eight and has since enjoyed a rapid rise through their academy.

Moore can play in a variety of different positions but he offers the biggest threat when he cuts inside from the left wing into central areas and onto his stronger right foot. He has impressive close control of the ball and will often touch it with the outside of his boot to lure defenders into making a rash challenge before gliding away from them. His trademark skill is letting the ball roll across his body before receiving a pass and then dribbling into space, similar to the goal against France above.

A source close to Moore, who like others in this article wished to remain anonymous to protect relationships, says the first time he truly grabbed everybody’s attention was in November 2022 when England’s under-16s were taking part in the Football Federations Cup in Alicante on the south-east coast of Spain.

There were eight teams at the tournament including Belgium, Mexico, Japan and the eventual winners Spain, who were captained by Pau Cubarsi. The defender made his first-team debut for Barcelona in January and went on to play 24 times in all competitions before the season’s end, including starting both legs of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

Moore started England’s opening game, a defeat to Belgium, and was dropped for their next fixture against Germany. England were losing 1-0 when he came off the bench and scored twice in the final 20 minutes to secure victory. The forward’s first goal demonstrated his intelligence and skill as he was fouled on the left wing and played a quick free-kick. He received the ball back just inside the box and slalomed past four Germany defenders, nutmegging one of them, before chipping goalkeeper Florian Hellstern.

Moore’s second goal was equally impressive as he picked up possession out wide, drove into the box and slotted the ball into the far corner from a tight angle. One coach who has worked with a number of Spurs youth sides describes him as an “exciting player”.

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Mikey Moore in Premier League action for Spurs against Man City (Catherine Ivill – Getty Images)

“He’s the first player for a long time who has a good chance of breaking into the first team,” the coach says. “Lovely, easy movement, he can go past people comfortably and takes the ball well. He has lots of quality.”

The teenager has performed at a consistently high level since that breakout moment at the Football Federations Cup. When Spurs faced Nottingham Forest in the Under-17 Premier League Cup final in April 2023, he scored twice in a 5-1 victory. In the same month, he became the youngest player to make an appearance for Spurs’ under-21s when he came on as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. He was then invited to train with the first-team during Ryan Mason’s spell as interim head coach.

Wary of the interest he was attracting from other teams, Spurs offered him long-term a deal which he signed last June. He moved from schoolboy forms to a scholarship and it will become a professional contract when he turns 17 in August.

He has scored 14 goals and provided eight assists in 12 appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season. This includes hat-tricks against Norwich and Southampton, while he helped his team recover from 2-0 down to beat Chelsea 4-3.

“He is a special talent,” a former Spurs youth-team coach tells The Athletic. “He has great technique. It’s hard (to compare him). He’s like a throwback player. In terms of his skill and ability he is a bit like Adel Taarabt.”

Moore started training with the first-team for the final couple of months of this season and Postecoglou named him on the bench for three games in a row before throwing him on for the final few minutes against the champions Manchester City. It was a significant moment which was slightly overshadowed by the drama surrounding the game. Moore made another brief cameo in the 3-0 victory over Sheffield United on the final day of the campaign but while the rest of the squad flew to Melbourne straight afterwards for a post-season friendly against Newcastle United, he headed to Cyprus.

“I thought it was important,” Postecoglou told the club’s media channel after Moore made his debut. “It’s a bit of a reward for him for working hard in the last two, three weeks as part of the first team squad, to give him that experience. He still has a long way to go, he’s only 16, but he’s a good kid and hopefully that encourages him.”

Moore’s stock has risen during the Under-17 Euros where he is accompanied by Spurs Under-18 midfielder Callum Olusesi. Moore scored twice in England’s opening fixture, a 4-1 victory over France, and found the back of the net in their defeat to Portugal too.

Moore’s performance in their 3-1 victory over Spain on Monday gave us a better glimpse into his playing style. Head coach Greg Lincoln started him on the left of a front three along with Chelsea forward Shumaira Mheuka and Manchester City’s Divine Mukasa. He frequently moved inside and it is easy to imagine him operating as a No 10 or as one of the eights in Postecoglou’s system.

After Mheuka opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Spain took control and equalised before half-time. England were struggling to create chances and Moore’s touches on the ball were limited. In the 71st minute, Christian McFarlane replaced Harry Amass at left wing-back. McFarlane immediately took up more aggressive positions on the left which opened up the space for Moore to move centrally.

Within a few minutes, McFarlane setup Moore for a stunning finish. It helped England secure their place in the quarter-finals at the expense of France who had the same amount of points but worse goal difference.

“Mikey is a beautifully close control dribbler,” says Harry Brooks, a professional football coach working with academy and senior players. “He has that clutch gene of end product. The Spurs teams will look to him — all the attacks go through him, but he’ll also finish them off.

“He is what I call a ‘presence forward’ — which doesn’t need to be the biggest player, you just have to have the presence where you dictate how the team attacks and creates chances. You’re the go-to guy in attack. Mikey will be the one to decide ‘I’m gonna win this game’.”

Spurs fans are understandably excited but realistic expectations need to be set. Lots of young players show flashes of their potential and the real skill is being able to do it on a consistent basis. Moore is described as “down to earth” and “hard-working” by those who know him.

Whatever happens this summer will be decided by academy director Simon Davies. Spurs’ first-team embark on their pre-season tour of Japan and South Korea at the end of July and that could be a valuable experience for the teenager. Staying with the Under-18s, being permanently promoted into the first-team squad or heading out on loan are all options which need to be considered. He will only be eligible to go out on loan after he turns 17 in the middle of August.

For now, though, Moore’s focus is with England’s under-17’s at the Euros and his reputation will only increase if he leads them to glory in Cyprus.

(Top photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach – Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images))

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