England’s 4-1 victory against Montenegro was not only a significant step towards qualification for the 2014 World Cup but it also marked the beginnings of an international career for Tottenham winger Andros Townsend. Not only did he display a mature performance and a willingness to run with the ball, but he also demonstrated that the loan system within English football can reap benefits in the long-term.
For some young footballers employed by Premier League clubs, a loan move to a lower league club is often viewed in different ways. Several players regard it as a sign that their immediate first team prospects have diminished and that their move may be an opportunity for that team to assess their capabilities before completing a permanent signing.
Other players take a different view in that it presents an opportunity to gain valuable and competitive first team experience in leagues which offer a vastly different experience from playing in reserves or at under-21 level.
In the case of Andros Townsend, the latter scenario has most definitely proved productive after loan spells with nine different teams since signing for Tottenham in 2009. Yeovil Town, Leyton Orient and Milton Keynes Dons have all secured the services of the Spurs winger during a period when his football education was favourably enhanced.
There followed spells at Ipswich, Watford, Millwall, Leeds and Birmingham which helped Townsend become accustomed to the challenging environment of Championship football. Throughout this period, he was used by Tottenham in Europa League and League Cup matches depending on his availability.
His first opportunity to impress a wider audience arrived when ex-Spurs manager Harry Redknapp decided to offer him a loan period at Queens Park Rangers, and so help with their bid to survive in the Premier League. QPR ultimately failed in their attempt to retain their top flight status, but the performances by Townsend were one of the plus factors as he claimed two goals and several assists in his 12 league appearances.
Throughout these spells on loan, Townsend has been capped at several levels of the England team including three appearances in the under-21 team, but the World Cup match against Montenegro demonstrated that England manager Roy Hodgson now has true faith in a footballer who has gradually learned his trade in the lower leagues. Being selected ahead of James Milner was indeed a defining moment for the 22 year old Spurs winger, who will now provide added competition for Theo Walcott in the England first team.
With six first team appearances for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, Townsend could yet become a regular member of the England team and serve as a reminder to other young aspirants that the loan system can yield its rewards.