Troy Parrott had scored four goals in one game in an Everton shirt, was wanted by both Manchester United and Manchester City and was set to visit Chelsea, only to decide at the age of 15 his future was with Tottenham Hotspur.
Now the 18-year-old has been thrust into the spotlight as a potential solution to Spurs’ striker crisis as a result of injuries to Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn.
Parrott, who made his Republic of Ireland debut in November, has been restricted to six minutes of Premier League action across two short substitute appearances, but could find himself thrown into Champions League action on Tuesday when Spurs look to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit in the last 16 at RB Leipzig.
Lacking a serious goal threat, a vocal section of the Spurs fanbase has been calling for Parrott to get more minutes, and there was a huge cheer at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when he was brought on in extra time in Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Norwich.
It did not end well though, with the Irishman showing the bravery to raise his hand and step up in the penalty shootout, only to have his spot-kick saved on the way to defeat.
“He was so confident, he wanted to take one, he wanted to take the responsibility, it’s an experience in his career,” said boss Jose Mourinho, who has yet to start Parrott.
“The problem is not his experience. The problem is the 30 minutes. Now people can see that he has to work a lot so don’t think that Parrott is the second Harry Kane because he’s just a young kid that needs to work.
“Let’s forget the penalty because we all miss the penalties, it was not Troy.”
Parrott’s climb to the fringes of the Tottenham first team has been sharp – only five years ago he was barely on the radar back in Dublin, never mind for Premier League scouts.
So who is the “good kid” Spurs beat their Premier League rivals to sign?
‘Every main club in Britain was interested in him’
Vincent Butler is the director of football affairs at Belvedere in Dublin, where Parrott played his youth football, and has known the striker for 10 years.
“He’s a very good lad, easy to deal with,” Butler tells BBC Sport. “He comes from a very tough area – north inner-city Dublin, a lot of social, drug and violent problems.
“But he’s never been involved in anything like that. Football was the one thing that kept him going. He’s mad on football, he’d play every day if he could.
“He is a very determined player and will never stop running. If he makes a mistake he’ll make up for it very quickly. He puts a lot of effort in. He’s an excellent character.”
Butler says Parrott was always a good player but a growth spurt in his early teens “added a bit of strength, pace and size to him”, and suddenly made him stand out.
Playing representative football in Dublin allowed him to shine on a wider scale and the chance to play for Everton at a tournament in Northern Ireland gave the then 14-year-old his break.
“They beat Glasgow Rangers 5-1 and he scored four of the goals,” Butler says. “Nobody knew about him at this stage. Troy turned out to be the star performer of the tournament.”
Butler’s phone soon lit up with Ireland-based Premier League scouts wanting a look.
“Word had spread around. They were on to their clubs to say ‘this lad from Dublin has done exceptionally well and nobody has ever heard of him’,” he adds.
“Every main club in Britain was interested. Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, you name them, there was a queue of clubs looking at him.”
What made the youngster choose Tottenham?
“He came on the scene relatively suddenly,” says Butler. “He was very good, but there wasn’t the urgency to get him over because people felt they would get him in due course and they couldn’t sign him until he was 16.”
The following summer Ireland-based Spurs scout Marty McGuigan contacted Butler, wanting Parrott to join the under-18s on a pre-season trip to Bruges.
“I got a phone call from John McDermott (Spurs’ academy manager) halfway through the week to say they were delighted with him and wanted to follow it up,” says Butler.
“He had been in Manchester City and was going to Chelsea, he was due to go to Manchester United and had been to places like Aston Villa and Everton.
“He had to pull out of the Chelsea one because Tottenham brought him over to sign an agreement.”
What can Spurs expect from Parrott?
Parrott impressed former boss Mauricio Pochettino, who called him up to train with the first team, played him in pre-season against Juventus and Manchester United, and gave the youngster his debut in a Carabao Cup defeat by Colchester in September.
He scored six goals in four Uefa Youth League outings before Mourinho’s arrival in November but first-team duties, despite not featuring in matches, have limited the teenager’s game time at all levels this season.
Butler says Parrott is enjoying life in London, living in digs with a family in Enfield, but would like to see him playing more competitive football.
“He settled in very well. He likes the family he is staying with and they think the world of him. He is very happy there,” he says.
“The only thing he doesn’t like is not playing matches. He would play three matches a day if he had the option of doing it.”
Mourinho says Parrott must first prove to his colleagues why he has the “privilege” of training with the first-team squad, and show willing when featuring for Spurs’ youth sides.
But a lack of games could also impact his international hopes.
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Parrott was linked with a loan move in January but Tottenham needed to keep him at the club to meet eligibility rules about homegrown players.
Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy said he “wished he’d gone to Charlton” on loan and if Parrott is not playing he has “very little chance of being in the squad”.
“If he is not playing it’s going to damage his chances of getting a first-choice position,” says Butler. “But he has plenty of time ahead of him.”
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