Spurs defender reflects on a tough Premier League debut and ‘a dream come true’
Jan Vertonghen says it is much harder to bank three points at home in the Premier League than it is in Holland – and that is exactly why he has come to England.
The 25-year-old joined Tottenham from Ajax during the summer and, having watched the 2-1 defeat at Newcastle from the bench, made his debut in front of the home crowd at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
The Belgian defender was far from happy with the result but he enjoyed the occasion – and he says the difficulty of winning games in the Premier League is precisely what attracted him to play in England’s top flight.
“I’m glad I made my home debut, “said Vertonghen. “The atmosphere was amazing and the lads helped me through this game – it’s a steady improvement.
“I did a few good things and a few bad things, but we cannot be happy with the result. I think we had to win that game. We have a very good team and we have been a bit unlucky. I think last week we deserved the draw and this time we deserved the win.
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“It’s a lot harder to win home games here than in Holland, for sure. In Holland we would win this game - not against West Brom but against a different opponent.
“West Brom are stronger than the average team in Holland. They kept on coming and shooting, and the challenge of [Romelu] Lukaku was very strong at the end. When you’re tired they keep dropping off their players and it’s tough.
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“But that’s the Premier League. Games are difficult, you have to fight until the 96th minute and keep your concentration. That’s why I came here – it’s the best competition in the world and that’s where I want to play. I want to play at the highest level.
“Now we have a home game again next Saturday, against Norwich, so we have to take that game and four points will help us this season.
“I think last season they [Tottenham] had a very difficult start also. They started with zero points after two games - so we’re doing better than last season!”
Vertonghen had an eventful debut, firing over the bar from a good position in the first half and then seeing an injury-time winning goal ruled out because William Gallas was offside.
The centre-back has developed a reputation for contributing goals as well as solid defensive performances, having scored eight times in 39 games for Ajax last season – and he is keen to get into a similar habit in north London.
“I think it was offside - I hope it was offside because otherwise it’s a frustrating game!” said Vertonghen. “I like to get forward and score – also with my head. I had a good understanding with Jake [Livermore] and Sandro to do it [attack] and I think the manager wants me to do it too, so sometimes I can.
“In the second half the opponents tried to keep me at the back, but in the first half I had that good chance from a cross from Gareth Bale.
“The second half was a bit more difficult. They kept the midfield in front of me but I hope I can score in the next game, soon.
“First I need a rest but I’m looking forward to my next game. I hope I play. It’s amazing to play in the Premier League right now – it’s a dream come true. I hope I play a lot more games.”
Having been omitted from the starting line-up at Newcastle, Vertonghen is aware that he faces stiff competition for places in the Tottenham rearguard, but he enjoyed his partnership with Gallas on Saturday.
“Did I expect to start so early in my Spurs career? I hoped I would be starting last week!” he said. “I know Younes has a little injury. I hope I start every game, it doesn’t matter when. I want to play every game – that’s how I am.
“It was the first time I’d played with William in an official game, so I think we did okay. We need to adapt to how the other plays. We talk a lot and speak the same language, and we try to do as well as possible.”
Vertonghen’s attempts to bond with his new team-mates included an initiation involving a rendition of The Beatles’ song ‘Yellow Submarine’ during the pre-season tour of America.
“I will not perform it here, I’m not in the mood now,” he told journalists. “I could have sung a Belgian song but I thought ‘I’m here in England now so I’ll do an English song’. It went okay. I’m not really a Beatles fan, it was the first song that came up in my mind. There was applause, I think it was okay.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs