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Kelly eyes more of the same

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Stephen Kelly suspects that his late-season run in the team will bring him great benefit as he prepares to impress new Head Coach Jacques Santini when the squad re-group for pre-season training in early July.

Recalled from a loan spell at Watford just before Christmas, the Republic of Ireland under-21 skipper made his debut against Charlton on December 28 - in place of the suspended Stephen Carr - and pretty much remained in the 16 from then on, before starting the final five games.

It was not the easiest period for a young player to come in and stake a claim for the future, but the Dublin-born defender acquitted himself well in the games he featured in and appeared more composed as the team secured two wins at the end of the campaign.

"It was great for me, to get a run of games in the final part of the season was really enjoyable - especially getting the wins at the end," reflected Stephen.

"It was a relief to get the couple of wins because our form wasn't the best."

Stephen picked up some valuable experience in 2003, enjoying loan spells at each rung of the league during stints at Southend, QPR and Watford, before making his Premiership debut before the year was out.

He is therefore well qualified to assess the differing nature of the game between the then Nationwide League and the top flight.

"The pace is very different and obviously there is a lot more riding on it. It is the Premiership and you have to be quicker on the ball and make the right decisions.

"It was tough for me, we had some difficult games - including the Arsenal one - and our form wasn't the greatest.

"The more games you get, the more used to it you become and you feel more comfortable. You really gain something from putting games together."

Stephen points out that the huge television coverage of the Premiership on Sky does help players like himself prepare to tackle the challenges that might occur on a matchday. He admits the nerves are still there, but it is not a journey into the unknown.

"The thing is, with it being the Premiership, you see a lot of these players all the time on television so you kind of have an idea of what you are coming up against.

"I do get nervous before most games but, as time went on, I was getting less nerves.

"Everybody in the team was really good towards me, they have given me confidence and kept my spirits high so it was good."

So, out of all the games he started in - Charlton, Everton, Bolton, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Wolves - which encounter was the most memorable?

"I think it would have to be the Arsenal game," he smiled - no surprise there then! "Just because of the whole gravity of it and the build-up - them being able to win the title and we needed the points.

"It was such a huge game to play in, just massive. The hardest opponents would have to be Pires and Henry, they were the best I came up against - Henry won Player of the Year.

"I tried not to think about it too much because before or during the game, I had to do my job and do my best. You can't think 'should I have done this or that', you have to concentrate on the next move."

The likeable 20-year-old is fairly reserved when it comes to his ambitions for next season, suggesting that pre-season will be the key time to make a positive impression with the new coaching staff.

"Same again really - to get in the squad and get a few chances in the team. I played regularly at the end of last season and hopefully next season I will be able to get a few more games under my belt and see what happens.

"Pre-season will be an important time to make an impression with the new coach coming in."