Assou-Ekotto relishes battle with brilliant Bale
BENOIT Assou-Ekotto insists that he welcomes the formidable competition from Gareth Bale as he completes his comeback from injury and prepares to fight for his place. The Cameroon international left-back has been out of action...
By Ben Pearce
BENOIT Assou-Ekotto insists that he welcomes the formidable competition from Gareth Bale as he completes his comeback from injury and prepares to fight for his place.
The Cameroon international left-back has been out of action since the end of December with a groin strain, and has had to watch Bale explode onto the scene with a string of stunning performances.
Assou-Ekotto could be available for this weekend's clash with Everton, but he concedes that he cannot expect to walk back into the team.
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And that, he claims, is one of the main reasons why Spurs can win the race for the top four this season - a brutal battle for places, which forces players to play to their utmost potential.
"I have always had three or four players to battle with in my position, from Young-Pyo Lee when I first arrived here through to my good friend Gareth Bale now, but that keeps things exciting," said Assou-Ekotto.
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"It is great to see we have so many players who can learn and adapt quickly to positions. The fact that this has run so smoothly so far means that we have achieved so much, and I am still confident that we can push on and clinch that top four place that everyone is talking about.
"With the way the club is now it's not as if any player can assume that they will be picked every week, because there is so much competition. Undoubtedly competition makes me stronger. That means we are all looking for ways to improve and perfect our games, so that can only be good for Tottenham.
"I have had to work hard. Particularly in the past year I feel I have become a lot stronger in the air. For a defender, heading is a crucial part of the game, yet I came to realise it was something that I'd never really focused on in the past. I saw the need for improvement and I feel the hard work has paid off, definitely."
Assou-Ekotto arrived at White Hart Lane in June 2006, moving from French side Lens for �3.5million, but he believes that his Spurs career only took off when Harry Redknapp took the reins in October 2008.
"In the past the other managers I had worked under at Tottenham didn't really bring out the best in me," he continued. "When Harry Redknapp arrived, training immediately became enjoyable and I felt I could begin to express myself with my colleagues. It wasn't long before I was bringing that onto the pitch with me, so this is why I feel my performances have become better and better over the course of the past year or so.
"I think as a player you accept that things are not always going to go as smoothly as you plan, but all at once things around me started to come together. I feel settled in England, I speak the language more, and mentally when you have all those things in place you play better on the pitch. It has been a long journey to get to this point but I am very happy where I am at the moment."
For the full interview with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, pick up a copy of Hotspur, the official magazine of Tottenham Hotspur. Out now!