The Big Interview - Toby Alderweireld
29 June 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Toby Alderweireld saw one of his former Southampton pals move to White Hart Lane last week and then scored a key goal for Belgium at Euro 2016 – no wonder the defender is bouncing with joy in France at the moment!
Our popular centre-half was thrilled to hear of Victor Wanyama’s arrival at the Club from St Mary’s, where the duo were team-mates back in 2014-15 during Toby’s spell on loan to the Saints from Atletico Madrid.
Of course, the 27-year-old is yet to catch up with Victor face-to-face as he’s currently in the midst of Belgium’s assault on the European Championships along with Club colleagues Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele.
Ever-present for the Red Devils at the tournament so far, Toby became the second Spur to score at this summer’s showpiece event when he headed his side in front on Sunday night against Hungary in their last 16 clash – a goal that proved the catalyst for a fine team performance and eventual 4-0 win.
That set up a mouth-watering re-match with Wales, who famously beat Belgium in qualifying, in the quarter-finals on Friday night in Lille.
Understandably working hard in the build-up to that game, Toby took a few moments to check in with us from the Belgian base camp in Bordeaux and underlined his delight at recent events on and off the pitch…
Toby, let’s start with the Euros. How has the tournament been going from your point of view so far?
Toby: “It’s very nice! We had a false start against Italy where we lost so from day one the pressure has been there. We did well against Ireland and then we had our best game against Hungary, winning 4-0, so now we’re happy and we’re in the quarter-finals.”
You mentioned the pressure – how much has that been on your minds?
Toby: “We have to expect the pressure after the World Cup two years ago but now this group has been together for a few years, with some additions here and there. We just do normal things in between matches – we’re just in the hotel. We have a very good, young group and we enjoy ourselves together. We train hard, we work hard and try to prepare ourselves as well as possible for each game.”
Your next match is obviously against Wales in the quarter-finals. How much expectation do you feel there is around that one?
Toby: “People expect a lot from us but it will be a tough game against Wales. We have a good chance though. A lot of members of our squad play for big teams in big competitions so we know how it is to play under pressure but that gives us motivation at the same time – we want to give something back to the country. Back home everybody is awake for the matches as it’s only an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Belgium so they’re like home games here in a way. Everyone is talking about the golden generation so we want to achieve something special.”
Above: Toby with Spurs legend Robbie Keane after Belgium's win over the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016.
Tell us about your goal against Hungary. It was a great header!
Toby: “I noticed that they were putting their biggest guys in the middle so I knew there was space. I had to keep low rather than high and it went very quickly! It’s always an honour to score for your country, especially as a defender when you don’t score a lot and it was a good moment, too. Against a team like that it’s always important to score the first goal and it gave us confidence – I was happy. It was an important goal and I was very proud.”
And the celebrations that followed…
Toby: “The first person to celebrate with me was Jan – it was nice! I’m happy because I’ve scored some important goals for Spurs and now I have one for Belgium. It’s nice to score important goals and I feel blessed to have these kinds of moments in my career. When you’re younger you dream about those moments and it’s nice to have some in my career now. I only seem to score important goals which is a good quality so I’m happy and proud!”
Your spoke about Jan there – he obviously plays at centre-half for us but at left-back for Belgium. How do you think he’s been getting on in that role?
Toby: “He’s done very well at left-back – I’ve been very impressed. He gets confidence from the manager as well to go and play there. He’s improving with every game and I’m impressed at how he’s managed it. He’s having a very good tournament so he can be very happy.”
What’s the mood been like among you, Jan and Mousa as the tournament has gone on?
Toby: “Jan, Mousa and I always speak a lot, especially ahead of pre-season at Spurs. We’ve watched a lot of football, too. It’s nice to be here with each other."
Moving on from the Euros – last week saw the arrival of Victor Wanyama at the Club. Obviously you know him well from your time at Southampton. What can you tell us about him?
Toby: “He’s a wonderful person. He looks very strong and he’s a big man but he’s a very nice person – he’s the opposite of how he is on the pitch. I sent him a message to congratulate him, actually. I think he’s making the right move – Spurs are on the up, we’re in a good place, the new stadium is coming and we’re in the Champions League. He’s a very exciting signing for us and he’s a very good player.”
What did you say to him in your message?
Toby: “I just said ‘congratulations and welcome to the Club’ and that I’m looking forward to seeing him. He congratulated me on the Hungary game as well and wished me luck for the Euros. It was just a short message, just a ‘welcome’ one. I know he will feel welcomed by the guys at the Club and his quality will shine through on the pitch as well.”
Look out for more from Toby in the build-up to Friday night’s match against Wales.