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
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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