MAIN INTERVIEW - MATCHDAY PROGRAMME v BOLTON, DECEMBER 3
French international Younes Kaboul has been at the forefront of our recent fine form, an immoveable object in our solid defence. And he says there is much more to come. By Jon Rayner.
Ever-present in our Premier League campaign so far, Younes Kaboul has been a key figure in our fine run over the last 10 games – but insists this has to be the beginning of something special rather than resting on our laurels.
The tall, commanding centre-half is playing some of the best football of a career which started back home in France with Auxerre, brought him to the Lane in July, 2007, saw him depart for Portsmouth a year later before then returning to N17 in January, 2010.
He has been outstanding this season, looking every bit the international player he now is, having broken into the French national side during the summer, scoring on his debut in a friendly defeat to Ukraine in June. And the fact that Younes has played every minute of our 12 Premier League matches to date has certainly paid dividends, with the player looking more assured and confident with every passing game.
In fact Younes isn’t alone in being a regular this term. Brad Friedel, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale have played all 12 games, Kyle Walker has missed just one, while Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor have featured in all 10 league games since they arrived in August.
From a defensive point of view, the back five of Brad, Kyle, Benoit, Younes and skipper Ledley King have started nine of the last 10 games – surely no coincidence that we have remained unbeaten over the course of those matches, winning nine and drawing one.
A solid defence is the ideal foundation on which to build a team and Harry Redknapp has certainly adhered to that this term – and we are fortunate to have such quality in that area on standby including the likes of William Gallas, Sebastien Bassong, Vedran Corluka, goalkeepers Carlo Cudicini and Heurelho Gomes, not to mention the injured Michael Dawson.
So it is no surprise when Younes talks in glowing terms of his team-mates, both collectively and individually, even if such strength in depth means he needs to be on top form every time he crosses that white line.
“Without any question, this is the best squad we have had since I first joined Spurs,” said the 25-year-old. “We have so many great players here, it is a pleasure to be a part of it at the moment. The competition for places is so fierce, there is always someone waiting to take your place but that is the way of football at every club. More competition is good because it makes you work harder.
“I have played every game in the league and I feel good, I am enjoying myself and I always say that every time you get a chance in this team, you have to try to do your best and make the most of the opportunity. That is what I try every time I play and I am happy with the way things are going.
“The team is doing well and in this squad, everyone is on the same level. No-one is trying to be bigger or better than anyone else and that certainly helps. We all fight for each other, we have a strong mentality at the moment and when you have that, anything is possible,” continued Kaboul, who believes the next game is always the most important.
“Of course we are on a great run of results but the most difficult thing now will be to keep it going. For any team to win nine out of 10 matches in this division is good, but that’s in the past now and we just want to win the next one, and the one after that.”
While this sequence of results is naturally down to the team as a whole, Younes admits that as a defender, it is great to have the likes of Ledley alongside him and the midfield shield of Scott ahead of him, helping us to become a difficult side to penetrate.
“For me, Ledley is a top class defender, in fact I would say he is the best England defender since Bobby Moore, he is that good,” enthuses Younes. “He is a player who has the club running through his blood and it is such a shame he has had his injury problems.
“But even though he doesn’t train much in the week, we have known each other a long time now since I first arrived here and we know our games very well, so when we go out onto the pitch, we work well together.
“As for Scott, I cannot believe more clubs didn’t come in for him in the summer, but I’m glad they didn’t! They missed out because he is world class, I’m very happy he came here to join us because he adds a lot of quality to our squad.
“I’m not just talking about football either. Everyone knows he is a good footballer but outside of the game, he is a good person too, a great example for everyone.”
Following early season defeats to the two Manchester clubs – currently the only sides now above us in the table – Younes reveals that the squad got together after the subsequent international break to discuss the situation which saw us bottom of the table with no points from two games and a hefty goals against tally.
Confidence was low and with a tough trip to Wolves next on the fixture list, it would have been easy for negative thoughts to develop. But that was never allowed to happen.
“We had two difficult games to begin with and we made a bad start, but after that when we all came back from playing internationals, we had a good chat and just made sure we all knew what was required to get back on track,” he explained. “Confidence could have suffered but we didn’t allow that to happen.
“To then go and win so well at Wolves was the perfect response and we have just pushed on from there and kept that momentum going.”
Next up this afternoon is the visit of Bolton Wanderers, always tough opponents but a team that are currently struggling in the league. However, their predicament just makes them an even more dangerous side and Kaboul knows we have in the past sometimes found it difficult to overcome such teams.
“Last season we had a few disappointing results here against teams that we really should have beaten and we must make sure we don’t let that happen today,” he said.
“In this division, the team at the bottom can beat the team at the top so we have to take this game seriously, as if we were playing the league leaders and show the right attitude and focus.
“Our next few games are ones we could win if we approach them in the right way. This season we have shown how to win these games, by being patient, playing our football and taking our chances when they come. I’m confident we can keep this run going and with this squad, we have to believe we can achieve anything.”