NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 10 – Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama had a remarkable performance in his debut season with English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, a club he joined in the summer of 2016 after spending three seasons with Southampton FC.
The transfer from the English South Coast to the capital was a big one for the 25-year old who moved to Europe at the age of 15 and his exploits saw him earn plaudits from friend and foe, including club legends and opposition coaches.
Wanyama was touted as one of the ‘signings of the season’ and his contribution at the heart of the Spurs midfield was a core reason for the club’s impressive performance, only missing the Premier League title by a few points.
Capital Sports sat down with the burly, combative midfielder as he narrates his experience in North London, highs and lows of the season and aspirations for the new campaign.
Q: Victor, you have had a great season with Spurs. How has it been especially being a new member of the squad?
A: I think it was a very good season for me especially being in a new team and getting playing time regularly. It was not very hard to blend into the team because I have worked with Poch (Mauricio Pochettino) before and I understand him and he understands me as well.
As a team, despite failing to win the Premier League, I could say we had a good season because we finished at a better position and number of points than we did last season and to me that’s positive.
Q: You have talked about Pochettino and it’s very interesting as it seems you two have a very strong relationship because you said previously he played a huge role for you moving to Spurs. How is it like working with him?
A: I have a very strong relationship with the boss and we are very close. It is not only me but the whole team as a whole because he is not just a coach but like a father to all of us. He is always advising us and keeping us on track and I don’t think there are too many coaches who can do that. It is great having him as a coach.
Q: You guys have a very hard working group of young players, very talented and top class. It hasn’t been easy definitely getting to play week in, week out?
A: Yeah, it is not easy because there is a lot of competition in the team. Everyone works hard and no one wants to be left out of the team. For me, I think that is something very positive because it has made me work harder and get better. Competition makes you a better player and that is why I managed to play well in each game.
Q: Any particular players who you can say have contributed to you being the best you have been?
A: Spurs is like a family; we are not only friends and team mates on the pitch but we are a family as well. There is Dembele (Mousa) and Dier (Eric) who always push me because we play close to each other but generally the whole team has contributed.
Q: The English Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world especially in terms of competition and following. Are there matches you can say are your favorites to play in?
A: I think I enjoy all the matches we play in but definitely, the games against the league’s biggest clubs; the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City… they are great to play in as a player. Not only because of the competition on the field but the atmosphere as well. All the time it is electric.
Q: You are a defensive midfielder and your first duty of course is to shield the back four and break up opposition play. But we have seen you go up and score five goals this season.
A: We balance a lot in training and the coordination we have is very good which gives you an assurance that if you move up the field, there is someone covering you up and vice versa. The manager also gives us freedom to move and I think that makes us want to go up and help attacking players score.
Q: Of the five goals you have scored, you definitely have a favorite, don’t you?
A: Yeah, my favorite is the goal against Crystal Palace where we went on to win 1-0. I loved it because I scored towards the end of the game and it was my home debut. It gave me a huge boost of confidence and I was pleased as well. I think it was memorable. I can’t forget the feeling.
Q: Then there is this thumping header you scored against Manchester United…
A: Oh, that was a good goal especially after I missed an open scoring chance against them in the first leg. My team mates and the coaches were taunting me and joking about it all week in training after that game and I told them I would come back strong, prove them wrong by showing I can score as well.
Q: Talking of scoring, you guys have one scoring machine in your team, Harry Kane. He is also one of your close friends in the team huh?
A: Harry is a great guy, a world class striker and his finishing is a joke! (chuckles). When you see him in training, he does it so easy and you enjoy. I think he is one of the best I have played alongside and as a team we are lucky to have him.
Q: Kane won the EPL Golden Boot but this was after coming back from a long injury lay off. Do you think things would have been different if he was around all season?
A: He missed lots of games and when he came back everyone saw what he can do. If he was there maybe things would have been different from when we didn’t have him. Hopefully next season we can all be present together and I am sure things will be better.
Q: Spurs came very close to winning the league this season. Where do you think things didn’t work out for you guys?
A: Despite failing to clinch the title, we are proud of ourselves. We had a very solid performance playing at home because we were unbeaten. But the problem was our away form. We dropped very vital points away from home like the game against West Ham. That was our biggest undoing. If we were better playing away, we would have won. That should be our focus next season.
Q: Definitely you guys have to be pushing for titles next season. Do you believe you have the right frame to push for silverware?
A: Yeah sure. We have picked up very many lessons this season and of course the only thing we missed was silverware. We have everything we need to win trophies now. In the league I believe we will go one better and I have so much faith in the squad.
Q: Champions League football beckoning again for you guys. Looking forward to a better performance after failing to get off the groups in the past season?
A: Last time, we didn’t have very many players who had played in the Champions League before and we lacked much of experience. Now, we have that feel of playing in Europe. We know what to do in each game and we will perform better.
Q: White Hart Lane, your fortress is closed down for expansion and you will play your home games in Wembley. Looking at the performance you had in the Champions League last season at the national stadium, are you afraid you guys will struggle?
A: No, not at all. I think it was just a matter of luck as well as familiarization with the stadium. Now at least we have that small experience and we should be doing better.
Q: Any final words to your fans?
I would like to thank them very much for the support they have given me this season. They have been part of the success with all their messages of love and hope next season we can have a better outing.
Q: Thanks so much Victor for your time and all the best with your endeavors.
A: Thanks too for having me. Cheers!