Connor Southwell: Why the biggest compliment to Ollie Skipp lies with Alex Tettey
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Oliver Skipp arrived at Carrow Road last summer, few anticipated the impact he would have on a Norwich City side gunning for promotion back to the Premier League.
Their pursuit of the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was extensive and involved the then-teenager taking two months before electing that Norwich City was the best destination to continue his development.
Skipp had other suitors in the Championship and overseas, but the Canaries' philosophy, track record of developing young talent and an in-depth chat with boss Daniel Farke convinced him to swap the capital for Norfolk.
Norwich have had mixed success with the loan system since Stuart Webber and Farke arrived in 2017.
Harrison Reed and Angus Gunn both excelled and were exposed to regular football under Farke's stewardship. Jordan Rhodes injected Championship experience and was popular among supporters.
Others, namely Marcus Edwards, didn't pan out in a way that the club would have wanted. Despite this, their relationship was strong due to Webber's close friendship with Spurs' head of recruitment Steve Hitchen.
Skipp wasn't a player willing to sit in the background and observe as Jose Mourinho picked others ahead of him. He was keen to press ahead with his development, and the depth of his research shows the responsibility he takes in his own game.
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Even against Mourinho's wish, he pushed ahead with finding a loan move. Now, he is in a stronger position to make his mark with Spurs after this current loan concludes.
All being well, Skipp will have a promotion on his CV. His game has developed to the extent whereby he has become a crucial component to Farke's midfield engine room.
At 20-years-old, he is beginning to look like a player capable of stepping up to the demands of the top-flight. His tactical awareness is more polished, his trademark recovery runs followed by crunching tackle to retrieve possession is an art form akin to a beautifully weighted Emi Buendia through ball.
Despite his willingness to defend and ability to screen the City backline, his work in possession is equally as impressive.
Skipp breaks the lines regularly with vertical passes. Farke has placed a ban on horizontal passes this season, and the Spurs midfielder has been one strictly encouraged to play probing passes forwards.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be handed to the England U21 midfielder isn't his contribution on the pitch, but the lack of appearances made by legendary City player Alex Tettey.
That isn't a slight on the Norweigan's ability nor a downplaying of his importance to this current group, but several have sought to take his place in Norwich's side during the last nine years and all have failed.
Yet Skipp seems to combine that ability to cover spaces and offer defensive security whilst adding the technical proficiency that has been a detractor of Tettey's during his spell at Carrow Road, despite the improvement witnessed under Farke.
Tettey could still perform this role with excellence. He may, and probably will, still prove his importance to this City side before the end of the season, but Skipp's progress means the pressure has been taken off his shoulders and the Canaries have found a way to play without him.
As they begin to look into the distance, there is a world whereby Tettey won't commit to one more year, where he will elect to return to Norway and rest his feet after a period of lengthy service to Norwich. He will be remembered as a legend and having made the most appearances for an overseas player in the club's history.
This season has proven Norwich can move on without him when the time comes.
For Skipp, the narrative will turn to whether the Canaries can retain his services for another season.
Mourinho may hold grand plans for the young midfielder, but another loan spell with City could be possible depending on whether Farke's side can gain promotion back to the Premier League.
That would represent a new challenge for the midfielder and would hand Spurs an opportunity to assess his development in the top-flight.
Naturally, Mourinho and his staff may opt to retain Skipp and place him in their first-team plans. In that scenario, Norwich could be proud of the role they've played in developing yet another young talent, albeit if they don't get the monetary returns that they received for Ben Godfrey and James Maddison.
Let's just hope Norwich supporters get to see him play in a full Carrow Road.