Grace Clinton: ‘It is really exciting to watch’ Tottenham’s growth under Vilahamn

As Tottenham Hotspur continue to rise through the Barclays Women’s Super League table, nobody has hit the headlines quite like Grace Clinton. The attention is substantiated: not many players go from being loaned out to the Women’s Championship, to bossing the midfield in the Barclays Women’s Super League in the space of twelve months.

But that is precisely what Clinton has done. Her performances have caught the eye of Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman, with the Dutchwoman handing Clinton her England debut against Austria last month. Clinton scored after just 19 minutes, all but cementing her status as the nation’s next hero.

Speaking to FromTheSpot at Hotspur Way, Clinton acknowledged that ‘it’s all happened quite quickly.’ Born on Merseyside and progressing through the Everton academy as a child, she signed for Manchester United in 2022 before being loaned out to Bristol City in the Women’s Championship six months later.

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Her first match with the Robins saw her kickstart a dramatic comeback in stoppage time, netting a 93rd minute equaliser as her new side went on to claim a late 3-2 victory over Coventry United. The drama would continue next time out, albeit not quite in as positive a fashion, as Clinton was dismissed for two bookable offences.

Over the course of the season though, Clinton became a mainstay in Lauren Smith’s Bristol City side – contributing six goals in fifteen appearances as the BS3-based outfit returned to the top flight. A successful loan spell had worked wonders for her development, and it was swiftly agreed that she would play for Tottenham Hotspur on loan in 2023/24.

Reflecting on the early stages of her career, Clinton told FromTheSpot that she recalls ‘all those years at the start of your career when people don’t know who you are and don’t know your name – you’re building that up as well.’

‘When I was at Everton and [Manchester] United, I had a couple of seasons there where I wasn’t even in the squad at the time. Definitely this season for outsiders looking in, it’s been a quick improvement, but – for me – it’s been a lot of hard work and only my family and people close to me see that. Keeping level-headed is knowing where I’ve come from and where I am now. Making the team at this club is amazing, and we all feel that.’

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‘When I first came here, I knew I would be fighting for positions on the pitch. Even after the start, I think Robert [Vilahamn] gave me a chance when older players might have done a better job at the time. He really trusts young players and that’s one thing about his philosophy that he’s clear on. He gives youth a chance, and, with me, he’s done that. Had he not done that, I don’t think I would have the fitness and the confidence to really express myself. That all comes from his trust in me.’

He’s an amazing coach, and an amazing person,’ she continued, piling on the praise for Robert Vilahamn – the orchestrator of Tottenham’s rapid rise through the league table this season. ‘Half of it is being a coach, and half of it is being a real people person. Robert has that, and he gives all the players amazing energy and confidence to be themselves.’

‘I wasn’t here last year, and I know the girls had a tough time,’ explained Clinton, referring to Spurs’ narrow escape from the relegation battle under Rehanne Skinner. ‘When Robert came in, it felt like everyone bought into what we had to say. If that wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t be doing the job we’ve done this year. All of the girls really trust him, and I think as a club, it is really exciting to watch the growth.’

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That growth has seen Tottenham Hotspur reach their first-ever Adobe Women’s FA Cup semifinal, in which they’ll host Leicester City next month. At Hotspur Way, the excitement was palpable, and there is a genuine belief that the Lilywhites could find themselves facing either Chelsea or Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 12.

‘It’s unbelievable,’ said Clinton. ‘I’ve been to two finals at Wembley and I’ve not got on the pitch yet.  The day, the atmosphere and even not stepping on that pitch, you can feel how big it is and how big the occasion it is. To go and do it and do it with this club and make history, getting there for the first time, would be an unbelievable feeling.’