A YEAR after being released by Tottenham Hotspur, defender Takura Mtandari has found a route back into the professional game – via Sydenhams Wessex League club Winchester City.
The 20-year-old right-back – known has Tak to his Denplan City Ground clubmates – has joined Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.
Mtandari originally signed for Winchester last November along with winger/midfielder Sol Asajile.
Both had been academy and reserve team prospects at White Hart Lane and were sent in City’s direction by a London-based agent contact of Winchester owner Paul McCarthy.
Mtandari went on to make ten Wessex appearances for City, initially under former management duo Matt and Stuart Hussey.
He travelled back and forth to Holland trying to fix himself up with a club and reappeared at Winchester at the tail-end of the season after ex-Saint Glenn Cockerill had been appointed first-team boss.
McCarthy said: “Stuart and Matt didn’t play Tak because they didn’t think he was good enough.
“It was frustrating for me. I always let managers have their heads, but it was hard because I knew how good he was.
“I kept beating the drum and saying we should give the lad a chance.
“When we won 3-0 at Bemerton he was outstanding, the best player in the league.
“Sometimes you can be real ly good as a 19/20-year-old at a pro club, but the system can’t accommodate you.
“We looked after Tak at Winchester and, now he’s got his chance, I think he’ll go a long way.
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t end up playing Championship or even Premiership football if he comes back to England.
“He was a great player for us and a great person to have around – all the lads loved him.
We’re really happy he’s done so well. We’re lucky to have had him here.”
Brought up in Edmonton, north London, Mtandari joined Spurs Academy full- time in 2006 and became a reg ular in the under-18 squad, fea turing in 27 out of 28 Academy fixtures in 2007/08.
He went on to make nine appearances for Tottenham’s reserves, eventually settling into a defensive midfield role.
Before joining Winchester, he had trials with Lincoln City, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Leyton Orient.
One man who is backing him to thrive in Holland is Winchester’s veteran former Spurs, Portsmouth, Gilling- ham and Brighton defender Guy Butters.
“I played some representa tive games in Holland as a youngster and he will suit their style of football,” said the 40-year-old former England under-21 centre-back.
“Although he’s a defender in every sense of the word – solid, good in the air and quite quick – he also showed a very good touch playing for Winchester.
“He was so comfortable on the ball that, in the end, we played him as a holding mid fielder, just in front of the defenders. He’s strong on the ball, can pass to feet and made some good runs.
“You could tell he’d had a good upbringing at Spurs. He liked to do it properly, getting the ball down and playing.”
With Mtandari having only signed Wessex forms for Winchester, the club will receive no money for him.
They are, however, hopeful of fixing up a pre-season friendly with a PSV XI next year.
This summer City have a host of tasty home friendlies lined up, starting against a Saints XI on Saturday, July 10 (3pm).
Kingstonian visit the follow ing day (July 11, 1pm), followed by Newbury (July 14, 7.45pm), Woking (July 17, 3pm), Oxford United (July 22, 7.30pm), Eastleigh (July 24, 3pm), Guildford (July 26, 7.45pm), Havant & Waterlooville (July 28, 7.45pm) and AFC Stoneham (July 31, 3pm).