Vertonghen on avoiding cup slip-ups... five years on from Leeds exit
Thu 25 January 2018, 21:09|Tottenham Hotspur
Jan Vertonghen has felt the humiliation of an FA Cup upset in our colours, but he says the professionalism in our squad makes life very difficult for lower-league sides these days.
On Saturday it will be five years to the day since we went down 2-1 at Championship outfit Leeds United in the fourth round of the world’s most famous cup competition.
Jan was in the side that day, amidst his debut season in English football after joining us from Ajax in July, 2012. It was his first ever FA Cup tie and he battled through the 90 minutes, picking up a booking towards the end in front of a hostile Elland Road crowd.
“It was a while ago, we lost 2-1 and it was a very tough experience,” reflected the Belgian international at Hotspur Way this week as we prepare to visit League Two Newport County at the same stage of the tournament.
“Away games are always tough in the FA Cup, everyone is up for it, especially against a Premier League team and we suffered that day, but we know what to expect.
“The smaller teams have always got their own crowd behind them and they’re always a bit extra-motivated, but we’re used to away games and we have to cope with it. We have to be professional.”
The maturity needed to avoid a potential banana skin has been ever-present throughout Mauricio Pochettino’s reign.
Since that slip-up at Leeds – and indeed since Mauricio took over in the summer of 2014 – we’ve faced teams from outside the Premier League in domestic cup ties on 12 occasions, winning 11 and drawing one – the second leg of our aggregate victory over Sheffield United in the League Cup semi-finals of 2014-15.
According to Jan, a lot of that has been down to mentality.
“We’ve been working on that,” he said, referring to the concentration shown by the squad in those previous cup outings. “I think this team has great focus, we know what we want and I’m very proud of that.
“We’ve got a very professional team that will approach this game against Newport in a very good way. We just have to approach it in the way we approach Premier League games, which we definitely will.”
Since illness forced Christian Eriksen to miss last weekend’s trip to Southampton, Jan is now the only player to have started every one of our Premier League games this season – and he says he’s thoroughly enjoying his football.
“I feel like I’m playing the best football I’ve played in recent years and I feel very good with my team-mates around me and with the work we’re doing here,” said the 30-year-old, who scored his first goal in over four years in our 3-0 win over AFC Wimbledon in the previous round of the FA Cup.
“I try to do some extra bits, I feel very good and I think you can see that on the pitch.”