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Tanganga relishing pressure of being Tottenham’s local lad

J

aphet Tanganga is relishing the chance to become a role model for local children looking up to the Tottenham side.

After missing the start of the season due to a thigh problem, Tanganga has started Spurs’ last two Europa League matches and will be back in the side again on Thursday night as the north Londoners look to top the group against Royal Antwerp.

Growing up in Hackney and attending the Greig City Academy, just down the road from White Hart Lane, before joining the Spurs setup aged 10, few of his teammates are as well rooted in the area than the 21-year-old defender and it is a position he is well aware of.

“It is really nice, I’ve been around near Tottenham pretty much all my life,” said Tanganga.

“It is really nice being from the area and being able to play for the local team. I want to say it is pressure, but I’ve got to know that people will be looking up to me, other local kids who are from the area and might be looking up to see that someone is in the Tottenham team from the local area.

“So it is a bit of pressure but I have just got to go with it because I’m from the area and hopefully I am a role model to others who aspire to be in the position I am in.”

Tanganga worked his way through the ranks as a central defender but, under Mourinho, is increasingly moving towards a role as a full-back with help from teammates past and present.

Despite never considering that role a possibility for himself, the youngster has settled in quickly enough when asked to play as a full-back, having picked the brains of Serge Aurier, Matt Doherty and former Spurs man Jan Vertonghen.

“I didn’t see it myself,” he said. “You know in growing up as a centre-half, coming through in the academy and learning my trade there.

“But coming into the first team, sometimes it’s just about taking the opportunity and taking what’s given to you.

“If the manager is saying that it’s something he sees in me and something I can work on and improve and give myself the best opportunity to play games and help the team to win.

“That’s just the way that I look at it. To take the opportunity that’s been given to me.

“I don’t want to sound overconfident but I haven’t found it as hard because I’ve just used what I’ve learned as a centre-half and brought it to right-back.

“There’s some similar attributes that you need on the ball, there are certain things that are different; you might have to run more, you might have to defend one-on-one more, but those are all things that as a centre-half you still need because you might be in that situation. I’ve got help from people, even last season with Jan [Vertonghen] playing left-back sometimes so he was able to help me. It is just asking people, watching other people’s clips and what they do and using that to help myself.”

( Pool via REUTERS )

Vertonghen isn’t the only former Spurs man that Tanganga has been learning from. Table toppers Spurs have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League so far this season with nine and remain the only side yet to hit double figures in the goals against column.

Mourinho and his staff have worked tirelessly to tighten up at the back, but the introduction of Ledley King to the coaching team has been pivotal for the likes of Tanganga.

“I think it is very important and it has helped a lot of the defensive players,” he said. “Whether it is in training or extras, asking him what you can improve on to the point of watching other games, and having his mind, someone who has been in the game for such a long time, you can use his intelligence, his mindset of what he knows and how to improve. 

“For us it has been very important because we have the tool to better ourselves and better ourselves defensively.”

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