It's clear to see why Spurs are so pleased with Skipp's progress at City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Olly Skipp's steadily building poise and confidence were given a big boost this week as Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho sang the praises of his Norwich City loan progress.
The 20-year-old midfielder has been one of Daniel Farke's most consistent performers since arriving last summer and has nailed down his place as one of the first names on the City team-sheet.
That's despite just seven of his 23 appearances for Spurs being starts, belying his tender years and inexperience to play a prominent role in the Canaries battling their way to the Championship summit at the halfway point of the season.
With injuries causing regular changes around him, Skipp has kept his head down, grafted, kept his cool, provided a solid midfield base and focused on the physical and mental development that his parent club wanted.
He isn't the finished product yet either, which hints at why Tottenham have such high hopes for their tenacious talent - with Mourinho famously predicting he could be captain material for the north London club.
Providing a goal threat from long range, having the confidence to organise and cajole older team-mates and a need for a more creative edge around the opponents' box, these are all areas where the England Under-21 international can focus.
Yet there's little doubt he is in the conversation for Player of the Season at the halfway stage - knowing that a great deal of hard work remains during the second half of the campaign if his early progress is to transform into tangible rewards.
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"A very successful loan for us and also for Norwich," said Mourinho. "So we are very happy that he is playing, he is playing well, he's playing to win, playing to win titles."
That almost sounds like a challenge. If academy players want to make the breakthrough at a big club with Champions League ambitions, a Championship title winner's medal at 20 years old is just the kind of feather in the cap that's required.
It's not been totally plain sailing, of course. He's a young man developing his game with his first proper run of games.
The 2-2 home draw with Preston brought harsh lessons in September, failing to track his man for one goal and conceding a naive penalty for the other.
City fans have been able to see his progression tracking almost exponentially though. His yellow card during the 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday brought a particularly telling moment.
Lukas Rupp had been criticised in October for failing to bring down surging Derby midfielder Jason Knight close to halfway in the 86th minute at Carrow Road, of not conceding a tactical foul and risking a yellow card for his team until it was too late, with the score at 0-0.
Eventually Rupp took Knight down on the edge of the D and we all know what happened next. Wayne Rooney, top corner, winless Derby take the three points.
When an almost identical scenario played out against Wednesday in December. With City trailing 1-0 in the 78th minute, Skipp took his yellow for the team to halt Moses Odubajo in midfield. Barely five minutes later and goals from Josh Martin and Max Aarons had earned the 2-1 win.
Statistics reflect kindly on Skipp as well, although failing to register a shot on target yet emphasises his defensive discipline.
According to WhoScored.com, only three players in the division average better than his 88.5 per cent pass success rate and only 10 average more than his 57 passes attempted in a game - with Canaries defender Ben Gibson (79.6) top of that ranking and Grant Hanley (69.5) in third, emphasising Farke's passing style.
Added to that is ranking 23rd in the division for averaging two successful tackles per game but contrasted with just three yellow cards and not even being inside the top 100 for average fouls committed per game (1.1), which hints at his ability to read the game and not always need to take a booking for the team.
The youngster appeared on the Along Come Norwich podcast earlier this season and wisely joked that defensive midfielders need a 10 out of 10 performance to be noticed, when discussing Alex Tettey.
That's perhaps proven by WhoScored's overall statistical rating for the season of an average of 6.72, which is the ninth highest of the City players to have played in at least half of the games so far this season.
That's what he's proving to be though. Unspectacular, low maintenance, committed, consistent and a team player, with room for improvement.
He's alongside England U21 colleague Max Aarons as the only players to have started every Canaries league game so far this season.
Aarons, quite remarkably and in spite of some injury knocks, has started each of the last 54 league games and 100 of the last 102.
That puts them on track to potentially manage something not achieved by an outfield player since Russell Martin during the 2010-11 Championship promotion campaign; to start every match of the season.
City keepers Tim Krul, Angus Gunn and John Ruddy have all managed to be ever-presents in recent seasons but the closest outfield player to repeat that feat was Bradley Johnson in 2012-13, starting all but one Premier League game, and Martin again when there was only one match he didn't start during the successful Championship play-off campaign of 2014-15.
If Skipp can maintain the consistency shown so far then it will not only help to forge strong bonds between City and Spurs for potential similar loans in the future, but it could also earn Mourinho's trust for a chance next season.
If there's anything that the former Real Madrid and Chelsea boss values, it's defensive discipline, hard work and a willingness to carry out instructions.
All good squads need bricklayers to create a solid foundation for the flair players and Skipp is thriving at the heart of this Canaries team.