Tottenham’s fringe players inch closer to exit door with dull Vitesse display

He hasn’t said it explicitly, but Nuno Espirito Santo has made no secret of his willingness to treat the Europa Conference League as a development competition for his reserves.

After half-strength sides picked up four points from a possible six against Rennes and Mura, Spurs went full second-string for Thursday’s meeting with Vitesse as Nuno left his heavy hitters behind and giving minutes to some of his fringe players.

Harry Kane, Son-Heung min, Tanguy Ndombele, Cristian Romero, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Lucas Moura, Sergio Reguilon, Emerson Royal, Eric Dier, Oliver Skipp and Hugo Lloris were all left at home, with Nuno filling his bench up with academy kids to complement his weakened starting XI.

This was the chance for some of the fringe players to step up, but for most of them, this game had the opposite impact.

Spurs fans have been clear in voicing just how little they really care about this competition, but what they do care about is their club and watching players take pride in wearing the shirt. They’re just not getting that from enough players.

Patience is understandably running thin with the likes of Harry Winks and Dele Alli, both of whom were poor to the point of non-existence against Vitesse – so much so that supporters were flooding social media to beg Newcastle’s new owners to turn the game off so they weren’t put off from signing them in January.

You’ve then got the players who just don’t seem good enough for Nuno’s first team. Ben Davies and Giovani Lo Celso seem incapable of reaching high levels these days, while Joe Rodon seems to be slowly losing any momentum he built up last year.

It was frustrating to watch, but nobody will have been as disappointed with Spurs as young Dane Scarlett, who was again given the chance to prove he can be relied upon as the team’s alternative to Kane but was completely let down by those around him.

Dane Scarlett

Scarlett suffered because of his team-mates / ANP Sport/GettyImages

Scarlett is a 17-year-old who still has a lot of physical maturity to do, but Spurs somehow decided he’d love going up against three towering centre-backs in the air all night long. The teenager could never make the ball stick, and ultimately it was he who was left looking bad, but he has his team-mates to blame for that.

Is Scarlett ready to cover for the best pure striker in the country? No, probably not, but he’s never going to get the chance to even try and prove himself if those around him continue to feed him scraps.

There are doubts about the quality of Nuno’s starting lineup, but in reality, the boss’ hands are tied as almost nobody is making a genuine push for a spot in the squad.

Davinson Sanchez was great and Bryan Gil was another source of unparalleled excitement, but outside of that duo, Nuno will not have been impressed with anyone on the pitch on Thursday.

Time is running out for these fringe players. They’re supposed to be dominating in this competition, yet against Vitesse, they were comprehensively seen off. That can’t happen.