IT’S NO BIG DELE
MK Dons star Dele Alli on staying grounded despite his move to Spurs
THE FOOTBALL League’s newly-crowned Young Player of the Year Dele Alli seemingly has the world at his feet, yet the MK Dons midfielder is in no danger of getting carried away.
Since making his first-team debut at the age of 16, the Dons knew they had a gem of a player on their hands, but manager Karl Robinson went out of his way to keep him grounded.
Alli was not allowed to shirk the normal responsibilities a teenage apprentice at the club would fulfil despite his fast-track path to stardom – Robinson had him making the coffee on the coach to away games.
He is ultra-confident in his own ability, understandably so with 16 goals from midfield before the weekend having helped earn a £5m move to eight-time FA Cup winners Tottenham.
Yet despite the riches set to come his way and continual comparisons to former England captain Steven Gerrard, Alli remains level-headed and believes his grounding with a Football League club before he lives the high life at Spurs has been no bad thing.
“It’s not all about which pathway you take,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you start, you can work your way up if you are surrounded by good people and dedicate yourself. I’d like to think I have done that.
“I have got great support at home and they don’t let me get carried away.”
Alli has not taken his eye off the ball since he put pen to paper on a five-and-a-half year deal with Spurs on February 2, before being loaned back to MK Dons.
Though he did not feature in March due to an ankle injury, he has played a prominent role in ensuring the Dons claim at least a play-off place this season, with automatic promotion also still very much on the agenda.
“When I got injured it gave me a bit of time to think about next season, but I can honestly say I haven’t thought about it for a second when I’ve been playing,” he added. “There’s a job to finish off here. I owe a lot to the club and to Karl Robinson. Giving him back performances from February until the end of the season is the least I can do. And I want to do it, too.
“MK are my home-town club, I love the club and I want to see us get promoted.”
Tottenham would appear to be a tailor-made club for Alli to join.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino is no sucker for reputations having benched expensive acquisitions this term in favour of home-grown talents Ryan Mason and Harry Kane, who made their England debuts in the spring.
Alli will not have to watch as a conveyor belt of ‘Carlos Kickaballs’ – as former Spurs chairman Lord Alan Sugar once dubbed them – are imported and move automatically ahead of him in the pecking order. The north London club’s recently appointed head of recruitment Paul Mitchell once held a similar role at MK Dons and he was a factor in Alli turning down overtures from other Premier League clubs.
And though the all-action midfielder may have to bide his time for a starting place, he has enough confidence in his own ability – except for his left foot – to believe he will quickly convince the Argentinian boss of his talents.
“Competition doesn’t worry me at all, I am really excited about the move,” added Alli. “I’m not going to play every game, I know that, but I have joined Tottenham with the intention to play, even if that’s after a few games.
“I’m not someone that feels the pressure to perform. I tend to try and look forward to the next game rather than look back. Sometimes I analyse games and look at the negatives to see if I can get any better. My left foot probably needs a bit of work!”
WHAT A SEASON: Dele Alli celebrates scoring for MK Dons and, inset, shows off his Football League Young Player of the Year award