Great expectations accompany Steven Caulker from Tottenham's training ground on London's northern-eastern fringes to White Hart Lane and beyond. He only turned 21 four days after Christmas yet has accumulated enough experiences to make for a better story than any the would-be novelist Frank Lampard might come up with. The plotline takes another subtle twist this afternoon and it is a tale that his manager believes has the potential for the happiest of endings.
The Liberty Stadium, where Tottenham will meet Swansea, is a familiar venue. It was the 26 Premier League matches he played on loan at Swansea last season that accelerated his development to where he is now, a cornerstone for his club and one who has genuine aspirations to be likewise for his country.
"Without a doubt," said Andre Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, when asked if Tottenham are now reaping the benefits of Caulker's year in Wales. "The club has great expectations towards Steven's future."
It is a development that has advanced via an all-round football education. He made his first appearance for Tottenham in 2010, in a 4-1 Carling Cup defeat by Arsenal, but his schooling in league football came on loan at Yeovil and Bristol City. All the time he was rising through the England ranks as well, Under-19 caps replaced by Under-21 honours.
The 6ft 3in Caulker was the beneficiary of Rio Ferdinand's decision to withdraw from the squad for the games in San Marino and Montenegro, although Caulker never left the bench. His international experiences are mixed. He scored on his debut against Sweden last year in the 4-2 loss – a cap earned in part for his impressive displays in Britain's Olympic side. Weeks earlier he was one of the Under-21 players racially abused in Serbia. Caulker was given a two-match ban by Uefa for his part in the post-match scuffle before it was reduced on appeal to a day's "football community service."
That was a grim experience. Otherwise, from Swansea, to Tottenham and England, everything has gone all white for Caulker, a victory today and another chapter in his career will be a step closer to being written, a first experience of the Champions League. "This involvement with England means we can have a great central defender for the future," suggested Villas-Boas. "We believe a lot in his talent."
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