Which full-backs did you model your game on as a youngster?
Growing up, the best left-back in world football was Roberto Carlos, so naturally he was someone I watched a lot. When I was coming through [at Swansea], I think Leighton Baines was at the top of his game in the Premier League - he was another full-back I looked up to.
More after the break
Tottenham have become one of the fittest teams in the Premier League under Mauricio Pochettino – what exactly do you do on the training ground to get in top shape?
We tend to play small-sided games but on bigger pitches. The training is always high intensity. The Premier League is such a physically demanding division that you can’t afford to switch off for a second or the opposition will score. That’s why we are so sharp on our fitness and high intensity sprinting.
Is there anything you do specifically in the gym so you can perform more sprints on the pitch?
We do a lot of single leg squats and single leg lunges, which are always important. In my career, I have had different strength levels in both legs so it is something I’ve always had to work on to get my sprint technique right and that’s the whole reason behind the single leg exercises.
What’s the most important thing for a full-back in terms of providing an attacking threat?
It is just your positioning and the timing of your runs. If you’re ahead of the game too early, you can end up in an offside position. You need to make yourself available and then pick and choose the right times to run forward instead of just bombing forward every time the team is in possession - it becomes a bit predictable.
How important is communication with your centre-halves to ensure you don’t end up out of position?
If the ball is on the other side of the pitch, I think it is important to be available to cover for your centre halves. If the ball is on your side, you’ve got a bit of a free license. But you also need to make sure your fitness levels are good, so if your team do lose the ball, you have got the stamina to make those 60-yard sprints to get back into position.
Are there any tips you can give on delivering a quality cross?
That’s a difficult one. I think full-backs should always aim to whip the ball in front of the keeper, so the ball goes into that nice little area between the keeper and centre halves. It always makes it tough for the keeper because he has to decide whether to come out for the cross or stay on his line.