By Tottenham Hotspur
Peter, how much have you enjoyed being back in the Champions League this season?
Yes, it’s fantastic. Obviously it’s where you want to be playing. For me, it’s the best competition in the world with the best players in the world, and obviously it’s the first time in the Club’s history to be playing in the Champions League so it’s a really exciting time for us.
Have you even surprised yourselves by how quickly you have taken to it, and how well you’ve done so far?
I’ve had the experience of the Champions League before, playing for Liverpool. And this squad is as good if not better than that squad. I look around in the dressing room and we’ve got absolutely nothing to fear. We’ve got some fantastic players – I know we’re coming up against top quality opposition, but we’ve got enough about us to go out there and express ourselves, as we have been doing.
What have been the high points for you so far, in the journey you’ve had in the competition?
I think the Inter Milan game at home was certainly up there because they’re the holders, and a fantastic group of players, and I think that was a big statement from us really. I think we fully deserved the win on the night, and we outplayed the holders.
What was the key to dismantling the holders, as you did?
Well I think to be honest we played it as a Premier League game. I think a lot of times in Europe, teams sit back and try to soak up pressure, and maybe you hit them on the counter attack; I think we took the game to them, and played it at a Premier League pace. And I think that was certainly our strength.
Gareth Bale teed you up for the second Tottenham goal of that game; what’s it like playing with him, as a striker?
It’s perfect, yes, it’s fantastic. Obviously for me, I rely a lot on crosses and balls into the box, and when you’ve got Aaron Lennon on one side and Gareth Bale on the other, it’s a dream really for a centre forward.
And there has been so much talk about Bale this season, and what he has achieved so far; can we expect a great deal more from him?
Yes, he’s young, he’s a young player, and he’s really fulfilling his potential at the minute. Obviously when he came from Southampton, it maybe took him a while to settle but he’s been fantastic, such a great athlete, a great left foot, he can score goals and he can create them. So I think he’s got a bright future.
And as a character? What is he like around the place?
Yes, a great lad. Obviously he’s got a lot of plaudits this season, and it certainly hasn’t gone to his head. He’s still the same lad. He’s very down to earth, and obviously we are lucky to have that type of player at this club.
And in terms of the attacking football you’ve played in the competition, you’ve earned praise from many people; how much of that is down to the manager’s ethos?
It’s got to be a lot down to the manager. I think we’ve had a good squad in previous years, and I think Tottenham have been underachieving for a long time, really. But I think Harry Redknapp has come in, and obviously he has added to the squad as well, but I think he’s just got us playing how it should’ve been, really. We’re competing for the Champions League places, and people are even talking about us winning the league at some stage, and I think that will happen. But obviously the manager has got us believing in ourselves, and we’d like to think that we can finish in that top four and get in the Champions League year in year out, like the top teams have.
Have there been any lessons learned so far in the Champions League? Because most of it seems good – I mean, you look at your results, which have been fantastic, but has there been anything you think ‘we have learned something here, we’ve picked up on something’….?
I think we can always learn, we’re not there yet. We’re really pleased with the progress we made in the last couple of years, but we’re not there yet. I think there have been a couple of times where we haven’t started well in games and we’ve had to come from goals down. And if we can cut that out, then I think there’s no limit really to what we can achieve with this group of players.
Where does that goal against AC Milan last week rank for you?
That’s got to be right up there. Its not every day you score in the San Siro and win the game so I’m really pleased. I owe a great deal to Aaron Lennon. It’s just a case of keeping up with him to be honest – he’s so quick. If you keep up with him, you’ve got a chance because he’s an unselfish player. He’s beat two men and squared it, and to see it go in the back of the net was really pleasing.
Does that performance say a lot about how far Spurs have come in this tournament?
I think to go away from home to a place like Milan, when it’s our first time in the competition, I think everyone is really pleased. Obviously they were going to have attacks and we had to weather those, it was backs to the wall at times, but we were professional in our performance and got the breakaway goal.
What are your chances now in the second leg?
It’s not over because Milan are a great side. With their forward players, I think they can go anywhere and score goals. But we’ve put ourselves in such a good position now that we’d be very disappointed if we didn’t go through.
You must be especially pleased with the result when you consider the number of players you had missing through injury?
Gareth Bale and Luka Modric are top, top players and if we can come to the San Siro and win without them in the starting line-up, then there’s probably no limit to what we can achieve. I don’t think we have got anyone to fear. We’ve had a great comeback at the San Siro last time against Inter, we beat Inter at home, we have come away from home, which was a fantastic test for us, and to win in Milan, hopefully people will start believing that we can do something in this competition.
What will it be like at White Hart Lane?
I think it will be an open game. We’ll attack. I don’t think we will go and defend our lead because that’s not our style. I think we’ll go to White Hart Lane and attack them and try and score goals and try to put the game to bed as early as possible. It will be a great atmosphere. I remember the Inter Milan game and that was a great atmosphere. All the Champions League nights are fantastic and I’m really looking forward to that one.
I think those European nights are something special. I was fortunate enough to experience them at Anfield, they were magnificent nights, but they’re very similar at White Hart Lane – those European nights under the floodlights, you hear the music, before the game, it’s so special, and then the atmosphere has been electric really. And thankfully we’ve played some football to try and match that.
You mentioned before about playing at Premier League pace against Inter that night, and you’ve done it with Liverpool in the Champions League too. Do you find sometimes if you go at teams at full speed, and you’ve got an English crowd behind you it can stun the opposition?
Yes, I think you have to have respect for your opponents, obviously, but I generally believe that with the team we have at the moment, we can go anywhere and get a result. I think if we go at them, and not be cautious, and take the game to our opponents, I genuinely believe we can beat anyone on our day – and that has been proved so far.
You mentioned before the number of talented players here. Steven Pienaar has joined the mix now, what do you think he can bring?
I think he is an extremely clever player, he’s good on the ball, and he’s got a football brain, and I think he’s a talented player, he’s a great addition, really. We’ve got so many attacking options now. I think, with Luka Modric in there, Van der Vaart – and Steven Pienaar as well will add to that. It’s just another string to our bow. He keeps the ball extremely well, and is a very creative player. So he’s a good addition.
You seem to have struck up a good partnership with Rafael van der Vaart…
Yes…! We’ve been on quite a good wavelength since he’s come, really – I’ve managed to get a few knock-downs and he’s got quite a few goals off them. He’s a very intelligent player, someone who is great to play with, really, and it’s nice to have that. He’s always around me, trying to get space and get on the end of things. And fortunately enough, I’ve managed to create a few goals for him.
No London club has won the European Cup, and the final is at Wembley this year. Is it something that Tottenham can realistically aspire to?
Without a doubt. I know it’s our first time in the competition, and with it being at Wembley as well, it would be extra special. But although it’s our first time in the competition I don’t think we’ve got anything to be worried about. We have beaten the holders already, and I think we look comfortable in this competition, and certainly at home I genuinely believe we can beat anybody – so why not believe that we can win it.
Which of your team mates finds it most difficult to get up in the morning?
The worst at getting up in the morning would be Sandro, I think. Usually he comes in, we start training at 11, he is usually in two minutes to eleven. He’s Brazilian, they obviously stay up late and get up late. Gomes finds it ok, but Sandro struggles, I think.
And who is the best dressed player in the squad?
I think the best dressed player at the minute, well we’ve had David Beckham training with us at the moment, so I’ll have to go with him, I think.
And who is the worst dressed?
Worst dressed player at the club, pretty easy, is Roman Pavlyuchenko, I would say. Head to toe in designer, but a lot of dodgy colours.
Which is the funniest player in the squad?
I would say the funniest player in the squad… would be David Bentley, he’s recently just left for Birmingham, but he always makes the lads laugh. Probably him and Jonathan Woodgate when they were together, get the lads going.
Is just the practical jokes?
The lot, to be honest – yes, both of them up to all sorts. I’m thinking. Recently when it was snowing I know he put a snowman in Alan Hutton’s car..! And he had to drive home with that….. Just stuff like that. He is quite lively, though.
And who is the hardest man in the squad?
Yes, I’d say the hardest man in the squad would be probably Wilson Palacios. He likes to put a tackle in. I don’t know what he is like in a fight, but I know on the pitch he certainly gets about it and puts a tackle in. He is not shy about that.
And who is the brightest player at the club?
The brightest player at the club I would say would be Van Der Vaart, really, just because he can speak about four languages, so that’s pretty handy.
And who is the loudest?
The loudest player in the squad, I would say without a doubt would be David Bentley – but obviously he has recently departed. So the loudest around the place, probably Jonathan Woodgate.