One of our longest-serving players and half of a central defensive pairing alongside Toby Alderweireld that helped set a Club record in the Premier League - 35 goals conceded in 38 games - things were looking all rosy for Jan at the European Championships until disaster struck the day before Belgium’s semi-final against Wales.
Jan fell awkwardly in training, picked up an ankle injury and the next we saw of him, he was pitchside wearing a protective boot as Belgium were picked apart by Wales.
That was on July 1. Six weeks later, Jan stepped out at Goodison Park and helped us pick up a point on the Premier League’s opening day as we recovered from a slow start to dictate the second half, equalise and come close to taking maximum points.
As we prepare to face Crystal Palace in our first home match of the season on Saturday, Jan, now on 163 appearances for us in all competitions - third most in the current squad behind Kyle Walker (191) and Hugo Lloris (169) - sat down to talk rehabilitation, fatherhood, Palace and why the Club means so much…
It’s fair to say your summer took a turn for the worse in France...
Jan: “I got injured in the last seconds before the Wales game. It was very hard to take. I felt great and confident we could reach the semi-finals and maybe the final later but then I injured my ankle. It took me a while to get my thoughts right and focus on my rehab. I came here (Hotspur Way) two days later for my scans, had a holiday and tried to get my mind right.
Below: Jan's Euros came to a sad end in France
“Two weeks later I was back here doing my rehab. That’s how it goes. Holiday, rehab and then start again for 12 months! It was a bit tough but the rehab went well. I approached it in the right way with the medical staff and I was ready to play. I was ready, I didn’t push it or anything, my ankle was ready.”
Injury - the toughest time for a footballer?
Jan: “It can happen anytime and I felt really good both times, at the Euros and the period before Palace. It can happen like this. I fell against Palace and my foot got stuck in the pitch and the same happened in training before Wales.
"It’s hard because you know what’s going to happen - you’ll be in the gym for a couple of weeks working twice as hard to come back. That’s the life of a footballer, I think.”
Below: Jan as back to face Everton on day one - here he tracks Gerard Deulofeu
During that time, your daughter celebrated her first birthday. How has fatherhood changed you?
Jan: “ I get home a bit quicker from training now! It’s brilliant. All the clichés make sense now. If you see her little smile after a game - okay, it’s still really hard to take a loss or even a draw - but once you are home you can place things in the right way and that helps me to forget about other things in life.”
Back to football and Christian Eriksen will make his 100th Premier League appearance for us if he plays against Palace. Have a guess how many of your team-mates have made over 100 appearances in all competitions for Spurs?
Jan: “At the moment, I think there are a lot, there must be say eight or nine.”
Below: Jan takes over the armband from injured Hugo Lloris at Goodison Park
Yes, it’s nine! The point of this is that with nine of you on 100 games or more for us, the Club must mean a lot to you all...
Jan: “For me, Mousa, Hugo, players who have been here four or five years now, plus the players who have come through the Academy, we all have a strong connection with the Club.
"We’re a strong Club and everyone feels great here and that shows why we’re here and serving for such a long time, because we feel good here and everyone is happy. We have all the same ideas. We want to compete with the big teams and want to be right up there.”
Okay, onto Palace. They are likely to play with one striker up, how does that affect what we do in a home game?
Jan: “The way the manager wants us to play, we approach every game in the same way. We want to be the team that has the ball, that presses high and if Palace play one striker, two or three it doesn’t really matter to him or to us, we ‘ve worked hard on that (system) for the last couple of seasons, this pre-season as well and we’ll play the same way we always do, to press high and try to be the team that dictates the game.”
And finally, we’ll have our old friend Andros Townsend back at the Lane for the first time...
Jan: “It’s always good to see old team-mates back and a very good player as well, lots of quality. Andros showed that last season at Newcastle and he will show it again at Palace this season, but hopefully not too much on Saturday.”