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Spurs star Kyle Walker admits Arsenal clash is crucial - but memories of 2012 are keeping him grounded

12:00 04 March 2016

Tottenham

Tottenham's Kyle Walker (left) keeps pace with Arsenal's Joel Campbell during November's north London derby at Emirates Stadium

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Kyle Walker admits Saturday’s north London derby may be the biggest he has been involved in at Tottenham – and he believes the top four teams in the Premier League all have a good chance of winning the title.

Tottenham have launched a charity partnership with Noah's Ark Children's Hospice and will celebrate the affiliation at tomorrow's match against Arsenal. Pic: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty ImagesTottenham have launched a charity partnership with Noah's Ark Children's Hospice and will celebrate the affiliation at tomorrow's match against Arsenal. Pic: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Kyle Walker admits Saturday’s north London derby may be the biggest he has been involved in at Tottenham – and he believes the top four teams in the Premier League all have a good chance of winning the title.

But the Spurs defender says painful memories of the 2011-2012 season are keeping him grounded – and he has warned his team-mates not to even bank on a return to the Champions League just yet.

The Lilywhites are three points ahead of Arsenal as the two sides prepare for this weekend’s crunch clash at White Hart Lane, with the Gunners chasing their first title for 12 years and Tottenham targeting their first domestic crown since 1961.

However, Walker was part of the Spurs team that blew a 10-point lead over Arsene Wenger’s outfit in 2012.

And, while Harry Redknapp’s side still finished fourth that year, they missed out on a place in the Champions League because, against all the odds, Chelsea won the continental competition and earned the right to defend the trophy, stealing Spurs’ spot.

Asked if this feels like the biggest north London derby he has been involved in, Walker said: “Yes, possibly. It’s a big one.

“It will be a game of chess at the start. Nobody will want to give anything away, but we’ve got to remember that they’re coming to our patch. We’re at home, we’ve got the crowd behind us, who have been fantastic - against Swansea at the weekend, they pushed us on.

“When they realised Manchester United were winning [against Arsenal], the crowd, you can hear it and feel it and it drives you on. I’m sure it will be the same against Arsenal and hopefully we can get the victory we want.

“I don’t want to jinx it but there are probably four teams [that can win the title] - Manchester City, Leicester and then us two – so I think it’s a fantastic chance for us all.

“But in the 2012 season, I think we were 10 points clear and there was a lot of speculation around the manager [Redknapp] and everything, and it just didn’t seem to go our way. So I’ve kept quite quiet about all of this, I’m staying out of these conversations because I know how it can turn.”

Walker went on: “I’ve said it from the start, that I think we’re going to do well this season, but we need to keep our feet on the ground at all times and not go out and say we’re going to win the title or get into the Champions League because I know the Premier League, I know how it can turn and it’s not nice when it turns - when you’re at home watching the Champions League final and Chelsea beat Bayern Munich. It’s not a nice feeling, I can tell you that.

“Do those memories spur me on? Yes of course. In that situation, who’d have thought it? No-one thought Chelsea were going to go and beat Bayern Munich, but they did, so I’d rather get third, second or first and secure it and then worry about the rest later.”

Despite his caution, Walker feels there is something different this season – a unity that will help Mauricio Pochettino’s side to go the distance.

“The dressing room is unbelievable,” said the right-back, who was speaking as Tottenham announced a partnership with north London charity Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice.

“It’s not just here at the training ground, it’s probably the first time we’re going out for food together and we’re doing things outside of football together - even something so silly as Call Of Duty on the Playstation.

“We’ve got a group app, about 14 of us. We’re all playing on there, talking on the mics. You can hear all the missuses going mad, but it’s good banter and it keeps us together. Little things like that are making a lot of difference.

“We’re just a bunch of lads who gel together. Put 10 people in a room and they might not gel, but it’s just coincidence that we get along so well.

“We’re all the same age, roughly. You’ve got Josh [Onomah] and Harry Winks, and then at the other end of the scale maybe Hugo [Lloris], Jan [Vertonghen] and Mousa [Dembele], but you don’t see the age difference.

“Josh can act as old as Hugo when he’s talking to him, or Hugo can act probably as daft as Josh if he wanted to, which you don’t see often - but it’s good to be around, it really is.”

Walker added: “Now we’ve got a nice foundation in the club - whether it be the manager or the players, everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet.

“Now the manager is drafting in players he wants and he’s got his squad now. Before, we’ve had a lot of managers come and go and when a new manager comes in he’s putting his stamp on it, players are coming and going and everything is up in the air. “With this gaffer, there’s stability. You can see the path he’s moving in. He trusts the young players, which I think is fantastic for the club and fantastic for English football - the players who have come through.

“Now we have a good starting block here. I think we need to build on that as a club, moving into the new stadium, which will be better for everyone else. If we can finish this season as we want to, the plot’s getting bigger.”

Walker hopes these factors mean that Tottenham will be able to keep their best players in future, having previously seen important stars depart.

“With [Gareth] Bale and [Luka] Modric, when Real Madrid came knocking on the door, it’s Real Madrid - we’re not going to sugar coat it,” said the Spurs defender.

“We probably weren’t the team then that we are now, we probably weren’t singing off the same hymn sheet. We had quality players but sometimes teams were coming in, picking us off and catching results against us, so when Real Madrid came knocking on the door, it’s half understandable.

“They wanted to go and, ok, it was probably best they did go if they wanted to. But now everyone is good.”

The hope is that this season’s title challenge will be the start of a new dawn at Tottenham, rather than a one-off.

“I hope you’re right,” said Walker. “I would love to be a part of it. We’ve got some fantastic youth players here and the sky’s the limit for us because we are so young and all so keen to improve.

“Hopefully we keep improving, keep singing off the same hymn sheet and let’s see what happens.”

Tottenham Hotspur is celebrating its new charity partnership with Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, North London’s only hospice-at-home service for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families, at tomorrow’s match with Arsenal. To find out more, visit: noahsarkhospice.org.uk

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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