Dele talks idol­is­ing Ste­vie G

Dele Alli grew up idol­is­ing Steven Ger­rard – he talks about the in­flu­ence he’s had on his style and why he loves big matches and big tack­les

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS - Por­trait Tom Watkins

Steven Ger­rard was one of your he­roes – what did you ad­mire about his game? He was one of the best mid­field play­ers in the world when I was grow­ing up, and his over­all tech­nique was world-class. To this day I haven’t seen many play­ers strike the ball as well as him. Plus his pass­ing range and shoot­ing from dis­tance were amaz­ing. But the main rea­son that I ad­mired him so much was be­cause of his char­ac­ter – it didn’t mat­ter how big the match was, he would never seem fazed by any­thing.

Do you see many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Ger­rard’s style of play and your own? I think we’re pretty sim­i­lar in the sense that we both re­ally en­joy ev­ery side of the game. Ger­rard loved link­ing up with his strik­ers, but then you would see him block­ing a shot back in his own penalty area. I don’t just think of my­self as an at­tack­ing mid­field player and I’d say Ger­rard was the same, but I think our main sim­i­lar­ity would be to do with at­ti­tudes. Ste­vie would never fear an op­po­nent and I never go into a game fright­ened about any player or team.

You en­joy a tackle – do you re­quire a hard streak to play at the top level? The Premier League is now a very phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, with some strong play­ers and stronger tack­lers. I’ll never back down from any chal­lenge, and I think it’s im­por­tant to show the op­po­si­tion that you’re not afraid to get stuck in and go for a tackle, or they will just try to get on top of you for the rest of the game. I don’t think you nec­es­sar­ily need a hard streak in you to be suc­cess­ful, though, be­cause ev­ery player is dif­fer­ent.

What’s your mind­set like go­ing into a big game, and does the pres­sure af­fect you? I go into ev­ery game with ex­actly the same mind­set. I have done my whole life. I don’t fo­cus on the oc­ca­sion or worry about the op­po­nents. I might study some op­po­nents more than oth­ers, but my mind­set al­ways re­mains the same. My only fo­cus is to win.

What were the big­gest dif­fer­ences you first no­ticed be­tween League One with MK Dons and the top flight with Spurs? Def­i­nitely the phys­i­cal­ity. The de­fend­ers are all big­ger, stronger and faster, but the main dif­fer­ence is the pace of the game. I re­ally had to adapt to that pretty quickly. You get much less time on the ball in the Premier League, so your first touch needs to be on point and you need to de­cide where your next pass is go­ing be­fore you get the ball.

How im­por­tant is po­si­tion­ing if you are go­ing to be a suc­cess in the No.10 role? Po­si­tion­ing is ev­ery­thing. Find­ing the space can be dif­fi­cult at times, es­pe­cially against de­fences who play with a high line. But you just need to keep mov­ing around un­til you even­tu­ally lo­cate that lit­tle pocket of space to play be­tween their mid­field and de­fence.

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