Debuts don’t come much better than Alfie Devine’s for Tottenham in their 5-0 thumping of non-league Marine in the FA Cup on Sunday.
The Warrington born midfielder, who is the son of former St Helen’s rugby player Sean Devine, wasn’t even born when Jose Moutinho was revealed as Chelsea boss in the summer of 2004.
At just 16 years and 163 days Devine broke his first record of the day when he was introduced by Mourinho at half time. His first appearance for the club, with Tottenham already 4-0 up and cruising, made him Spurs’ youngest ever player, overtaking his Under-18 teammate Dane Scarlett, who had held the record since his debut in November.
The second record he broke was the icing on the cake. After receiving a pass from Lucas Moura, the young midfielder cut inside and drilled a low effort inside the near post. His name was again written into the history books, this time as the club’s youngest ever goalscorer.
His huge grin after scoring shows just how much it meant to him, and he more than held his own in his cameo appearance, looking comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle, attributes familiar to anyone who had watched Devine previously at youth level. The game marked the latest milestone in the creative midfielder’s rapid ascent since joining Tottenham in the summer.
Devine started out in Liverpool’s academy, but was released aged 11 and moved on to Wigan, where he really began to make a name for himself. Given his immense talent, which has been evident from a very young age, Devine’s development at Wigan was fast tracked, so much so that he made his debut for the Latics’ Under-23 side aged only 15.
He really caught the eye last year, as did many of his teammates involved in Wigan’s magnificent FA Youth Cup run which was halted by Manchester United at the quarter final stage. Devine started that game at Old Trafford, having appeared as a late sub in Wigan’s fourth round victory over Tottenham.
He signed a new deal with the club in June of last year, but was sold just a month later as a result of the club going into administration and needing to raise funds. The Athletic reported that Spurs had to tussle with the likes of, “Celtic, Rangers, Leeds, Brighton, West Ham and Chelsea” to secure Devine’s signature, evidently displaying that the midfielder was a wanted man.
They also revealed that whilst it was the club’s head scout who pursued the player, the move was, “rubber stamped by Jose Mourinho, who even went to Devine’s medical in the summer to meet him,” conveying just how highly the Portuguese boss rates the midfielder.
Spurs got their man last July, in a transfer which cost them around £300,000. Despite his young age, the club were keen to fast track at every opportunity, and he trained with the first team during pre season before appearing in friendlies against Ipswich and Reading.
He started with the Under-18s this season, scoring twice and assisting another in seven games before quickly moving up to the Under-23s, scoring on his debut against Derby County. He hit the headlines last month after a nasty challenge on Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater in an Under-23 game, which led to a mass brawl before both he and Drinkwater received their marching orders. He has played four games in total so far for the Under-23s.
That incident with Drinkwater hasn’t deterred Jose Mourinho however, as Devine has been a regular fixture in first team training alongside fellow youngsters Dane Scarlett and Harvey White. Coaches are said to be impressed with both his ability and attitude.
Devine has also caught the eye on the international stage, having represented England regularly at Under-16 level. He played in the Sportchain AGS Cup in December 2019, picking up the player of the tournament.
His former Wigan coach lavished praised on him last year stating:
“Alfie is one of the best players I have worked with; he has a mature head on young shoulders.”
Many Tottenham fans are already drawing comparisons between Devine and the likes of Oliver Skipp, who is currently on loan at Championship side Norwich, and Harry Winks, given his capability of playing as a deep lying playmaker.
His task now will be to establish himself at Under-23 level, and to continue to train well with the first team when presented with the opportunity. Given the condensed nature of this season, he could make his Premier League bow before the season is out and will definitely be in contention for the next FA Cup game depending on the quality of Spurs’ opposition.
The Guardian included Devine in their list of the best 20 talents at Premier League clubs, and on the evidence of his showing in Crosby, it seems justified as there is plenty more to come from the young midfielder.