Time flies for birthday boy Japhet
Wed 31 March 2021, 16:15|Tottenham Hotspur
One minute, Japhet Tanganga is taking it all in as a young player breaking into the squad, making his debut, starting to pick up minutes. The next, he’s 22, and two 16-year-olds from the Academy are following in his footsteps.
Mention how time flies in football - it doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that Harry Kane started to make waves, let alone over six years - and Japhet, 22 today, knows exactly where you are coming from.
“I’ve said to everyone since I had my moment against Liverpool (Premier League debut last January), how my life changed after that day,” explained the Academy graduate from Hackney. “My girlfriend is getting into football, supporting me, watching games and she said to me the other day, 'Japhet, I didn’t believe when you said it, but now I see how football changes so quickly’.
“She meant how you can be at the top one minute, down at the bottom the next. It’s so true. It’s something you have to be wary of, and it’s important not to be too up when things are going well, and not to be too down when it’s tough. You have to strike that balance, stay in the middle emotionally, mentally, physically, making sure you are consistent on all levels.”
Japhet started making strides towards the first team back in the summer of 2018, when he was selected for a pre-season friendly against Girona. He then made it onto our pre-season tour of Singapore and China in 2019, and featured across the summer against Juventus, United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Inter.
His debut followed in the League Cup in September, 2019 and he was called up for his Premier League debut against Liverpool in January, 2020, an early defining moment. A new contract followed and in no time at all, he’s racked up 21 appearances in all competitions. It might have been more, but for a few niggling injuries hampering his progress.
“This season has been tough in terms of trying to get a consistent run of games,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of injuries that have set me back so it’s been tough, but it’s about working for the team and I know that when the chance comes, I’m ready to show what I’m capable of, while always trying to help the team as much as I can.”
Japhet has impressed when called upon of late, our Man of the Match in defeat at City, and helping us to a clean sheet in a vital 2-0 win at Villa last time out, where he slid in to block what looked a certain goal from Ross Barkley in the second half.
It was put to the young defender that all those years of preparation in the Academy system were for games like that at Villa Park, the pressure cooker of needing a result after a tough week and defeats against Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb.
“That was a tough week, not just for us as players, but the club, the fans, everyone,” reasoned Japhet, now on England Under-21 duty at the European Championship in Slovenia. “We don’t want to put pressure on ourselves, but everyone knew it was a must-win game to rectify what happened earlier n that week.
“That was on our minds, to be together and make sure we got the result for everyone who probably felt let down in those two games. We had to show what we were made of at Villa, and we faced up to that pressure. Now we have to keep that momentum and maintain it until the end of the season.”