Gareth Bale speaks to FourFourTwo back in September 2010, when he was still a left-back with Tottenham.
How do you feel about marking the likes of Lionel Messi in the Champions League next season?
[Laughs] How exciting would that be? I want to play against the best because you learn from that. He’s the best player in the world and I’d love the challenge.
You were full of belief in the second half of the season. Are you now an attacking, left-sided midfielder?
I feel naturally that I’m a left-back but really enjoyed that advanced role last season. I love getting forward and it is the strongest part of my game. It was just great to get a run in the team and my confidence rocketed.
How close were you to leaving in January?
I don’t think I was that close to be honest. It was just about being patient and getting my chance. I knew I had the ability and my spirits were always high so when the chance came I took it gladly.
Spurs fans have seen many a good player such as you sold to the highest bidder. Is that still the case at the club?
No, I don’t think so. We’re not that club anymore. They didn’t want to sell Berbatov but the money was too big. Today, having taken that extra step, we have to be a club that looks forward, and that means not selling players. If we are going to be the best – and that’s what we want to be – that has to be the way the club operates.
It took you 25 Premier League games for Spurs until you were on the winning side. Did you think about that much?
No, I never thought about it despite my team-mate’s efforts. There was the odd head-in-hands when the team was announced but it was all a bit of banter. When the record was broken I got some cheers in the dressing room!
Jermain Defoe told us recently that before a game he likes to smash a ball around the dressing room. How annoying is that?
Very annoying. There’s always a buzz around, though, especially with David Bentley around. He never stops. I’m quite a calm guy, though, and I just try to get focused – if Bentley will let me!
You’re a fast team. Who wins a sprint, you or Aaron Lennon?
Aaron, I think. He’s lightning.
What about your fitness, though? How do you keep the engine going?
I don’t have to work too much on the fitness side of things. I feel comfortable running and did 1500 metres as a schoolboy so I must just be naturally able to keep going.
So, who takes care of the dressing-room music at Spurs?
David Bentley likes to take control and it’s always the same. He plays some R’n’B mix before games and I must admit I’ve zoned out to it now. I don’t think the manager likes it, to be honest.
Much has been made of Harry Redknapp’s influence. How much is the club’s success down to the manager?
He gives us all such confidence. He’s one of the lads but knows when to be the boss, too. He gives you a belief and we all feel as one. When we cross that white line, we all know exactly what we have to do and what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are and that’s why we work so well as a unit. That’s all down to the manager.
How do you improve? Is it all about winning away at other big clubs?
That’s a massive part of it. We beat Arsenal and Chelsea at home which was great but the big result last season was Manchester City away. That not only gave us the points to claim that Champions League spot but also a huge boost in confidence in terms of knowing we can go to big clubs, compete and come away with all three points.
Be honest, do you think the team is ready for the challenges that lie ahead this season?
Yes, we are. We have to take a step up in terms of quality, but we are a good squad – a young squad with a good manager. We’re looking forward to the season.
From the September 2010 issue of FourFourTwo