The Friday Interview
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).
Alton Thelwell is a wise head on young shoulders. <P>He&nbsp;is suddenly a wanted man after an excellent Premiership debut against Liverpool last weekend but there is no&nbsp;sense that he believes he's cracked it - instead there is a sense of a 20-year-old who knows he's just made the most significant step of his professional career so far and wants more. <P>Paul Miles asked the new kid on the block about his rise from Flanders Athletic Under-11s to the Premiership. <P><P>Am I right in thinking you were born in Holloway &mdash; Arsenal territory? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;Yes but I moved to East London when I was about five. I moved to Stratford and I class myself as an East Londoner because I&rsquo;ve spent most of my time there.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>How did your football progress as a youngster? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;I got into football when I was about 11, at primary school. I had trials for the Newham borough, I wasn&rsquo;t even playing for a Sunday team but I got in. I wasn&rsquo;t expecting to get in because I&rsquo;d never really played football but my teachers thought I was good enough. I went along, got picked and that&rsquo;s when it started, when I was about 11.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>If you had reached 11 without really playing football, what had you done instead? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;I played, but not with a team as such. I liked sprinting, athletics. That all changed when I was about 11. I started playing for a new team called Flanders Athletic so while I was playing for Newham the manager must have seen me. They were just starting up so they weren&rsquo;t too good but when I left it was a good standard. I went to Barking Colts when I was about 14, won the league and Essex Cup with them and when I was about 16 I had a trial with Millwall. It was towards the end of the season and they said they would get back to me but I didn&rsquo;t really expect to get in. I then played for East Thurrock and the manager there was a Tottenham scout. He said he would try to get me a trial at Tottenham but said he didn&rsquo;t think I was ready at that time, but we would wait a couple of months. But a week later he told me I had a trial but I was injured. I came down, looked around a bit and then started training with the Under-16s.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>When did you get taken on by Spurs? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;It was 1997.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>&nbsp;<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p> <IMG align=left src="../title_images/001009_thelwell_action.jpg"> <P class=MsoNormal>&nbsp;<P class=MsoNormal>What was it like coming to a big club like this when you were a young man? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;It was very exciting. We used to train at White Hart Lane so I got to have a good look about.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>Did you have dreams then of perhaps playing in the Premiership for the club one day? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;From when I started playing at 11 I wanted to become a professional footballer. Time was running out when I was 16 because I still wasn&rsquo;t at a pro team. When I got the Tottenham chance I thought &lsquo;this is it, if I&rsquo;m ever going to do it, I have to try and get in now&rsquo;. I remember everyone being told whether or not the lads were going to be offered YTS and I was one of three who hadn&rsquo;t been told. We were told that they had taken on 11 already, which was a lot, and although they wanted to take us on they were not sure if they could or not. A week later two of us got in.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>Sunday marked that step in your career from those days on the YTS and through the reserves. It&rsquo;s fair to say that not very many YTS players make it as far as you. It is very difficult isn&rsquo;t it? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very hard. You have the first-team squad there and you have to be as good as what is there already. It&rsquo;s luck as well &mdash; injuries and stuff like that. If there weren&rsquo;t injuries this season I wouldn&rsquo;t have got my chance. You have to be single-minded and think &lsquo;my time will come&rsquo;. There are a lot of players who get frustrated, will want to leave after only playing in the reserves and they don&rsquo;t think they are getting anywhere but that&rsquo;s the time when you have to believe.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>There must be a lot of pressure on that debut. If you failed against Liverpool last Sunday that could have been it for Alton Thelwell - the chance might have gone. <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;It is hard and you just hope everything will be okay. I tried not to think about it really because if you think about it too much you are just adding pressure onto yourself. That&rsquo;s the way I do it. I just take it as it comes and luckily it went quite well.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>You have reached the Premiership stage after coming through the ranks so what advice would you give to younger players looking to follow in your footsteps? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t follow the crowd. You have to think to yourself &lsquo;do I really want it&rsquo; because there will be some players not as dedicated. You have to be true to yourself and do the right things. Say to yourself &lsquo;I really want to make it&rsquo; and do the good things that will help you get there.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>As a young man I suppose you miss out on a few things that normal teenagers get up to. <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;Of course you&rsquo;ll get mates who are going out but you have to make sacrifices. If you&rsquo;ve got a game on Saturday you can&rsquo;t be going out during the week. But it&rsquo;s worth making those sacrifices.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>So what about Alton Thelwell away from football. What keeps you ticking over? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;Seeing friends, going to the cinema, just chilling out really. I don&rsquo;t go out too much.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>Are you still living in East London? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m still with my mum at the moment.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>&nbsp;<o:p></o:p> <IMG align=left src="../title_images/totliv_ledley_alton.jpg"> <P class=MsoNormal>&nbsp;<P class=MsoNormal>What&rsquo;s been the reaction from all the local kids? <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;They all come up to me and say &lsquo;well done&rsquo; and say they can&rsquo;t believe I&rsquo;ve played in the Premiership. It&rsquo;s nice.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>Hopefully now, especially with Luke Young suffering his injury, you might be involved again against Leicester. <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure what the team will be. Ben Thatcher&rsquo;s back, Sol played for the reserves in midweek, I just don&rsquo;t know. It&rsquo;s just nice to be training with first team and be in that group. It&rsquo;s good for me.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>I suppose it&rsquo;s all about being realistic. <P class=MsoNormal>AT: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m only young and of course I do want to play but I&rsquo;m not going to be forceful and say I should be playing. I just do what I have to do and hopefully everything else will fall into place.&rdquo; <P class=MsoNormal>Listen to this interview by clicking <A href="http://www.spurs.co.uk/news/ram/at001124.ram">here</A>