You didn’t have the best start to your Spurs career. What was it like to not win a Premier League match after 24 appearances?
I think, obviously it wasn’t nice having that statistic. It was a bit of a freak stat to be honest but I just stayed focused and tried not to let it bother me. There was a bit of banter in the dressing room about it and it was mentioned in the press every now and again but it never really affected me. I know I’m still young and I need to improve every aspect of my game to become better and I think a lot of it has been down to hard work and working hard on the training field. I knew that eventually I would win a Premier League match and it never got me down. When I got my chances on the pitch I was always ready and I’m ready to take them. You can have all the ability in the world but if you don’t work hard you won’t be successful and I think that is the main reason why I have started to be successful – hard work.
You had a few injuries at the start of your Spurs career. How frustrating was that?
Definitely. For anybody who is not playing it is not nice and to be waiting a while it was obviously very frustrating. All footballers hate being injured and I’m no different. As I said I had to keep working hard in training and when my chance did come I was prepared and ready to take that chance. Thankfully that eventually happened, I got myself fit and when my chance in the first team came I took it. It was a serious ankle injury that I had and it took a long time to get right. But that’s all behind me now and thankfully I haven’t had too many niggles since.
What was it like sitting on the sidelines for so long?
I think I learned a lot of things to be honest. I realised that I had to make myself fitter and stronger. When I was injured I watched a lot of football and watched people in training. I looked at that and thought that when I do get fit I have to work hard to get my fitness to a certain level that there is less chance to get injured again. I used the negative of being injured and turned it into a positive by learning about the game. I came back from injury a stronger player, both mentally and physically.
I used the negative of being injured and turned it into a positive by learning about the game. I came back from injury a stronger player, both mentally and physically.
What was it like scoring the winning goal against Arsenal last season? Did you realise it was the first league win over Arsenal for 11 years?
Yes it was very special. One of the first things you learn when you join the club you get it rammed home how big a rivalry the north London derby is. To score the winner was such a big thing and I think we were slipping behind in the league. We lost to Sunderland the week before so to bounce back against Arsenal was a big turning point in our season. Sure it was a win in the derby but in some respects it was more important in terms of getting us into fourth position so yes I was very happy to score but it was more for the team and the fans to be honest than anything else.
Three days later you scored the winner against Chelsea. What was that like?
It was a crazy week and I enjoyed every second of it and to score two winning goals after I hadn’t scored in a while was a great feeling. We didn’t have great records against Arsenal or Chelsea and it was something which was mentioned in the media a lot. But when we won those two matches it was a massive boost for the team’s confidence and helped set us up to qualify for the Champions League.
Tell us about your ‘heart’ celebration?
That started a while ago. I hadn’t been playing for a while and I was with my girlfriend and she asked what I would do if I scored. I told her I would make the ‘heart’ sign but I wasn’t sure when it would happen. When I eventually scored I did it and my girlfriend thought it was great. I also did a ‘lawnmower’ celebration that was for my mates. I was mucking around with my mates playing the FIFA game and they said I should do a ‘lawnmower’ the next time I score. I scored not long after that so it was a bit of fun and my mates thought it was funny.
Why are you in such good form this season?
I just think my confidence has been growing with every game this season. I feel like I’m getting better, I feel like I’m more confident and I’m improving with each match. The team is playing well and that helps every player including myself and we seem to be playing with lots of confidence. We have some great individuals but we have a good team spirit as well. The manager has been fantastic and he seems to get the best out of us. We’re doing well in the league and we’ve got a great Champions League test against Real Madrid so it’s an exciting time to be a Spurs player. The fans are behind us and there’s a great atmosphere around the place at the moment.
Tell us about your performances in those two matches against Inter Milan?
In the first match with Inter I was obviously pleased to get a hat-trick but I would have swapped those three goals for a victory. I was disappointed to lose the game and it felt a bit strange having scored three goals. The second leg was much more enjoyable. The atmosphere at White Hart Lane was great and the players seemed to respond to that. To finish top of our Champions League group was a great achievement and I hope we can go far in the competition because those European nights are very special.
I know I’m still young and I need to improve every aspect of my game
Do you prefer playing at left back or left wing?
I don’t think I have a preference. I enjoy getting forward and whether I play in defence or midfield I will always be looking to get forward. I think in a way if I’m playing left midfield I get a bit more licence to get forward and a bit more freedom so to be honest I enjoy both of them but as long as I’m playing I’m happy really. I’ve played more in midfield this season and I’ve really enjoyed it but I know that one day I might get asked to move back into defence. That won’t be a problem but I am really enjoying my football at the moment.
You scored from a free-kick against Stoke at the start of the season. Are you trying to make free-kicks another part of your armoury?
Yes definitely. I’ve scored a few nice free-kicks but I think the best one was that one against Stoke. I couldn’t have connected with it any better and to see it fly into the top corner was a great feeling. The only way you can improve your free-kick taking is by practicing. It was good to see David Beckham when he was training with Spurs recently. He practices free-kicks all the time and you can see the results with all the goals he has scored over the years. I need to keep practicing and hopefully that will become a big part of my game.
You crossed paths with Theo Walcott at Southampton. Which of you is the fastest?
We’ve never had a race but I’m pretty sure he would beat me. You only have to look at him when he gets in full flow. Theo’s definitely quicker than me. I have got quicker but I’m not that quick and one of my main strengths is covering a lot of miles on the pitch over the 90 minutes. I use to do a lot of cross-country as a kid and that’s helped me as a footballer.
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