The Big Interview - Toby Alderweireld
Tue 01 March 2016, 14:30|Tottenham Hotspur
Character, mentality, drive - all words associated with the team this season, and all personified by Toby Alderweireld.
Now billed by media and pundits as one of the signings of the season, Toby has played every minute of our 27 matches as we sit second in the Premier League, a key figure as we've conceded just 21 goals in those 27 matches, the best defensive record in the league.
Ahead of the biggest week of the season so far - with matches against West Ham and Arsenal - it seemed the perfect time to sit down chew the Spurs fat with the central defender...
First of all, it's just been announced that we're playing Atletico Madrid alongside Juventus in the International Champions Cup in Melbourne in July - what do you think about facing your former club in pre-season?
Toby: "These are two great teams with a lot of quality, teams who have been playing in the Champions League regularly. It's always nice to play against a former team, especially in a pre-season match. I'm sure it will be a fantastic trip to Melbourne. I've never been there, so I'm looking forward to it."
Let's look back at Swansea - what did you think of the performance and coming from behind to win 2-1 on Sunday?
Toby: "We showed a lot of character because it was difficult at 1-0 down. We had chances in the first half, didn’t score and you start to feel ‘this is one of those days where it’s not happening’ but we showed a lot of character, a lot of energy and at the end we deserved to win. It was a massive win for us."
Below: Toby's defensive stats against Swansea - no tackles lost!
Did you hear the roar from the crowd as you came out for the second half?
Toby: "Yes, the ‘come on’. It’s great to feel the supporters are right behind us even at 1-0 down because that can happen, even at home. The supporters feel we put a lot of energy into the performances, we work hard and sometimes you need the fans to take you to the next level. This season, home and away, they have always been there for us and when we score, we always try to celebrate with them to give them something back. We are one team with the supporters and I hope we can go to the next level together. We’re one big team and that’s the only way to achieve something."
A couple of facts our of that Swansea win - first up, we've now won 17 points from losing positions in games. What does that say about the team?
Toby: "It’s the way we play. We’re quite solid, we never really go two goals down – of course, it can happen, but up to now it hasn’t happened. Even if we do go behind, we know what to do, we know what our plan is and the game lasts for 90 minutes and we don’t concede many goals, so we’re always in the game and up front, we have the quality to make the difference. That’s a good thing."
Secondly, that's six wins on the trot in the Premier League, matching our best winning sequence (2011)...
Toby: "We’re not so concerned with breaking records, we just take it game by game. West Ham are next. We can enjoy records at the end of the season. For now, we try to win every game."
Talking about records, our defensive record is 21 goals conceded in 27 Premier League games. You are ever-present, what are your thoughts on that?
Toby: "Every defence starts up front and the whole team works so hard for us and then when they finally come to us, we’re playing at a very good level as a defence. Even if they pass us, they come up against Hugo and Michel playing very well in goal. If one player makes a mistake, the next one picks it up. That’s the feeling we have. We try to be there for each other and everyone is stepping up their level this season and that’s a good thing."
Talking of Hugo, you had the best view in the stadium of his save from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the first half...
Toby: "It was a wonderful save. His reflexes are unbelievable. It’s comfortable to know there is such a good goalkeeper behind you."
You are very modest and the team as a whole is not really interested in individual praise - but you have been outstanding this season...
Toby: "It’s always nice when someone tells me, I’m not going to lie about that! I always try to see the team view and that’s the way you have to play, football is all about the club and the team and you always try 100 per cent for the team. If you do that, your performances will be good. I always try to be there for everyone and that’s the way I play football."
This is a close-knit group of players, what's it like within that group?
Toby: "That's true and it’s not just words that don’t mean anything. Not just at the club but outside the club we talk a lot, we do a lot together. Everyone is happy and that’s a nice environment to play in. The players on the bench, it’s difficult, I have a lot of respect for them because they work so hard to get in the team and they don’t complain, they work hard in training to show they should be in the team and that’s the way it should be. It’s not always like that but at Tottenham this season it is like that and that’s very important."