Skipp on 'crazy' few months and fresh starts
It’s been a rollercoaster few months for Oliver Skipp. But for the England Under-21 international, whose parents joke he played football before he could even walk, he is not getting carried away by the early success he has had in what are new chapters in his career for club and country.
Skipp’s last few months read: won the Championship title in May; sidelined with a fractured metatarsal in May, June and July; returned in time to start Tottenham’s first three Premier League matches in August; called up by the new England Under-21s manager for games in September.
“The last few months have been a bit crazy,” admitted Skipp, who developed his love for the game playing at Bengeo Tigers in his hometown of Hertford between the ages of seven and nine before being scouted by Spurs at U-9 level.
“At the end of the season there was a massive high, winning the Championship title with Norwich, but the second-last game I had the injury. But in one way it was a blessing because it was the best time I could have done it because it was during off-season and I could get back fit for pretty much all of pre-season. Then I have managed to start the first three games of the season for Spurs in the Premier League so they are all positives really.”
Skipp has been a part of the Spurs’ first team squad before, under both Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho, while still a teenager. But prior to this season, only three of his previous 12 Premier League appearances had been starts and they were spread over two seasons.
However, his loan spell at Norwich City saw him start 44 of the 45 Championship games he was fit during their hugely successful 2020-21 campaign and was integral to the Canaries’ promotion back to the Premier League.
For the 20-year-old, whilst he is by no means a newbie at either club or international level, there are new managers in the dugouts for both, in the shape of Nuno Espirito Santo and Lee Carsley, who will lead out the MU21s against Romania on Friday night and then Kosovo on Tuesday in Milton Keynes, following the former midfielder’s promotion from the MU20s.
When asked if this season felt ‘different’ for him at Spurs, now he has started the first three games of the season under the new manager, he replied: “It is definitely different [this season] but I am not getting carried away because it is only three games and there is a lot more that I need to work on and keep improving to hopefully continue to get those minutes.
“It definitely feels like it has been a good start but I definitely need to keep improving and keep going.”
Skipp acknowledged it was also a ‘fresh start’ with MU21s after the promotion of Carsley, who has named 13 new players in his 24-man squad for the September matches.
It is not the first time the midfielder will be coached by Carsley though, after working with him during previous England youth team camps, and Skipp said: “I really enjoy working with him. He is very detailed in what he wants but also takes the time to talk to individuals and to try to help each individual player to improve their game and to know exactly what he wants from everyone in the team.”
Skipp was born in Welwyn Garden City and grew up in Hertford, where he played for not only local team Bengeo Tigers but also at Duncombe Primary School and Richard Hale School.
The midfielder grew up trying to mimic the likes of former England stars Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, trying to take snippets of players he would watch on the television.
Skipp was picked up by Spurs at the age of nine, remaining in the academy until he turned professional, and has stressed just how important it is for parents, family members and coaches to ensure kids are enjoying their football at a young age.
“My parents always laugh about me kicking a ball around just before I could almost walk,” Skipp said.
“Those early years are crucial. It is so important to just enjoy it, try different positions and not put any pressure on the children.
“You want them to just go out there and enjoy it because it can get quite serious, quite quickly so those early years, make sure people play different positions and make sure there isn’t the pressure on winning and everyone has the freedom to try stuff they see on the tele.
“That would be my advice: Just enjoy football as much as possible, try not to take it too seriously and play with freedom.”
And whilst Skipp was someone who spent much of his childhood playing in a Premier League club’s academy, he also had words of encouragement for anyone hoping to achieve their dream of turning professional but has yet to be picked up.
He said: “There are lots of stories of people developing later. You think of someone like Jamie Vardy, who was playing non-league football until he was older, and there are definitely opportunities for players [to join a club later in their development] and everyone develops at a different rate and maybe you just haven’t had that break yet or something like that.
“So keep going for it, keep watching the game and trying to improve and there is definitely opportunities. It is never too late. People develop at different times.
“I look at the players who were the best at nine, ten or eleven and then there would have been later developers who went on to make it [instead] so there are definitely opportunities to make it later on.”
As for Skipp, he will be hoping to earn a spot in Carsley’s first MU21s starting XI for Friday night’s friendly in Romania before the chance to play in front of home England fans once again when Kosovo Under-21s travel to Stadium MK in Milton Keynes.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to it [the game at StadiumMK]. I think we have seen with the first few Premier League games and the Euros how much of a difference the crowd makes.
“The intensity of the games are lifted massively with crowds so I am looking forward to seeing the home supporters and we are very grateful for the support we receive as players.”
“I have watched pretty much every England game since I was five, six, seven years old,” he continued.
“Representing England means a lot. Growing up as a child you watch all the England games and it is something which you dream about so for me to actually pull on that shirt is an honour. I am very grateful for the opportunity.”