The England international put in a fine shift at right-back in Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory at Norwich City as we made it four wins on the spin in all competitions.
Assessing where we are at present, the 25-year-old says the atmosphere among players, staff and supporters alike has played a major role in our good performances on the pitch…
Let’s start with Tuesday’s win at Norwich City. How did you think we fared?
It’s never easy going to Norwich and they showed that they can get goals against Liverpool recently, so it was good to get a clean sheet. The forward players did what they do best and that’s put the ball in the back of the net. We knew Norwich were going to come out in the second half and bring it to us a little bit, but I think together as a team we were phenomenal. We knew we had to weather the storm after the break and then we could go and get them on the counter-attack, which we did.
A lot has been said about the spirit among our players. What do you make of the atmosphere around the club?
In my seven years here, now is the best it’s been and it’s a fantastic atmosphere to play in. I think we’ve shown maturity as a young squad as well. The togetherness and the team spirit that we have here with the players and with the manager is making a big difference and it’s a pleasure to be part of it all. Long may it continue!
Tell us more about the mentality of the players off the field…
I don’t think there are any egos in the dressing room – everyone is on a level playing field, whether you’re starting or you’re not getting as many games as you want to. The manager is top class and he gets the best out of you – if you aren’t getting the best out of yourself then he’ll let you know and you’ll probably be doing some extra runs or something!
What’s your own relationship like with Mauricio Pochettino?
It’s fantastic to play under him. He’s taught me personally a lot and I think I’ve matured in terms of my game a bit this season. I think there’s a lot more to come, though!
What have you worked on to ‘mature’ on the pitch, as you said?
As a full-back these days, you need to get forward and set things up but, for me, I’ve had to work on my positioning and on defending ahead of going forward. Sometimes you have to think to yourself “I’m a defender so let’s get the defence right and going forward is a bonus.” In this squad I think we’ve got enough of an attacking threat, even without me going forward to try to get the odd goal!
Do you try to draw inspiration from anyone else as you work on your game?
You can watch clips of other full-backs from around the world but you aren’t them and you have to look at yourself and your game. You have to know about yourself and put in the effort on and off the field. Day in and day out in training, you need to apply yourself 100 per cent. I’ve been doing a lot of work off the pitch, even at home doing stretching and yoga, to try to make myself a better player. Hopefully it all comes together – it’s a big season this season and hopefully there are some rewards at the end of it in the summer.
How do you assess your battle with Kieran Trippier for the right-back spot?
Kieran is a very good player. I’ve played with him before at England Under-19 level and we went to a European Championship together. He’s a good friend and we share car rides together too, so we have a good bond and we try to get the best out of each other. I think that’s important for us as players but also for the team. It’s the same on the other side of the defence with Ben Davies and Danny Rose – it’s a toss of a coin as to who plays each game as everyone is applying themselves correctly. It’s down to the manager as to who has the shirt and you have to go out there and prove that he was right to give you the nod.