Ange Postecoglou and his Tottenham team had a successful year at the end of 2023 after a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Bournemouth. Spurs needed a win after losing 4-2 to Brighton & Hove Albion in the middle of the week, and they succeeded even though they were under constant siege from the Cherries for the majority of the match.
Despite not playing at their best at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the three points Spurs gained might be crucial at the end of May as they closed the gap on fourth-place Arsenal to just one point. After nine minutes, Pape Matar Sarr’s shot from the edge of the box gave the Lilywhites a 1-0 lead. Nineteen minutes later, Son Heung-min’s deft finish off a ball from Giovani Lo Celso gave the Lilywhites a crucial two-goal lead.
Shortly after, Richarlison, who had missed a fantastic opportunity to put the game out of reach from inside the area early in the second half, overhit his pass, forcing Postecoglou to make a save. Destiny Udogie was in a great position to run through on goal. Academy star Jamie Donley and Eric Dier were stripped and waiting on the touchline, ready to replace the Brazilian in what appeared to be a late attacking substitution.
The 18-year-old seems poised to log the most minutes in a Tottenham shirt to date, having made two senior outings off the bench for Tottenham already this season after entering with one minute remaining against Man City and Newcastle United. But when Tottenham’s next chance arose, Postecoglou once more had to adjust his perspective.
Richarlison, making up for his previous error, scored his fifth goal in five games after deftly finishing Brennan Johnson’s cross at the near post. It was almost exactly the same as the goal he had scored a week earlier against his old team, Everton.
After Dier scored Spurs’ third goal of the match, Bryan Gil and Alejo Veliz were prepared to continue, and Postecoglou urged Donley to sit back down. The dynamic attacker should feel extremely bad for missing the opportunity to participate, especially as Tottenham was now up three goals and well on their way to a much-needed victory.
Donley experienced the same thing during the previous Brighton game; after Lewis Dunk’s vicious tackle, he was stripped again and about to enter the game before Dejan Kulusevski stood up and was cleared to play. While it was undoubtedly a disappointing moment for Donley, who is trying to gain more playing time in the first team, it did show that Postecoglou is considering him heavily when considering an aggressive substitution.
Throughout the season, he will have more opportunities; who knows, the head coach might even decide to rearrange his team for Friday’s FA Cup third round match against Burnley. The 58-year-old will now have an additional offensive option though, as Dane Scarlett, who hardly played at Portman Road during his loan from Ipswich Town, has been brought back early.
The 19-year-old may find himself as Tottenham’s second-choice striker over the next month despite falling down the pecking order with the Tractor Boys during his brief stay in Suffolk. This is because of Son Heung-min’s departure to represent South Korea at the Asian Cup and the injury Veliz suffered late in the game.
Following the departure of a number of players thus far this season, Spurs will now be praying that the Argentine’s Sunday night departure from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on crutches isn’t anything too catastrophic. After the summer addition was forced to leave and Spurs had already utilized all five substitutions, Postecoglou gave an update on Veliz to the media at his post-match press conference.
“Alejo was in a lot of pain and we’d already done our substitutions so we were trying to get it out to him to just lay down so we can get him off, but it just shows the character of the boy because he knew we had no more substitutions and he just wanted to keep going,” according to the Australian. “I’m not sure the extent of what he’s done but we’ll find out.”
In the event that Veliz is sidelined for an extended period of time, Donley may receive the much-needed first-team time throughout January. Scarlett is expected to surpass the footballer who was born in Antrim after returning to the capital.
Despite not getting more playing time for the first team in Tottenham’s season-ending match, 2024 could be the year Donley truly establishes himself for Postecoglou and Spurs.