Relish the challenge
“When I made my debut for Spurs and for England I just felt excitement. I’d never played in huge, packed stadiums like that before so I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I crossed the white line and the referee blew his whistle, I focused on the game. It’s strange to think all those people are there to watch you play football, but you just have to relax and play your own game. Enjoy the challenge and you’ll play well.”
Showcase your skills
“Dan Micciche was my manager as I came up through the MK Dons academy system and he was big on me expressing myself as much as possible. He wanted me to go out there and enjoy myself, and this helped me relax. Dan played a huge role in my development, as did [MK Dons manager] Karl Robinson, who gave me my debut. He didn’t try to change me for first-team football; he wanted me to play my own game.”
Demand the ball
“You can’t go out onto the pitch and hide. You need to get on the ball and enjoy it. If you don’t have it, you want to be looking for it and helping your team as much as you can. To do this, you must be confident and believe in your ability. I don’t think about the pressure to make something happen – I believe in my ability. So when things aren’t going my way, I just keep going, keep asking for the ball, and keep trying things.”
Stand up for yourself
“When I trained with the senior team at MK Dons for the first time, I was flying into tackles straightaway. Captain Dean Lewington told me that he loved it, and that I needed to keep doing it. He told me not to shy away from it and to keep it in my game. Then when I arrived at Spurs, my new skipper Hugo Lloris said the exact same thing to me, and added that he liked my aggression. It’s not something I’m looking to change.”
Ignore the hype
“I take no notice of all of the attention. I’m only 20 and I still have a lot to learn. Everyone likes getting compliments, and it gives you confidence, but you can’t get carried away – you have to keep your feet on the ground. Just as quickly as you can be in form and getting lots of praise, you can make mistakes and attract negative comments. You have to focus on playing football and trying to improve as a player.”
“There are different set-piece routines and tactical plans to remember when you’re out on the pitch. You need to be able to adapt to different situations. At Spurs we spend the week preparing for each match tactically so it’s ingrained in our heads. Two days before a game we’ll work on set-pieces, and then we’ll watch the opposition. We’re prepared. But when I’m on the ball I don’t have anything planned – it’s all natural.”
For more football tips see:
Thiago: Take your game to the street
Willian: The industrious playmaker
Aaron Ramsey: Overrun the opposition
Xavi: Master the pass
Eden Hazard: Rise to the top
Raheem Sterling: Run your marker ragged
Mario Gotze: Be a creative spark
Andres Iniesta: How to boss the midfield
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