Ange Postecoglou explains why Destiny Udogie excites him and why he wanted Guglielmo Vicario


Ange Postecoglou has explained why Guglielmo Vicario and Destiny Udogie made such a big impression on him before they made their Tottenham impact this season.

Both players have slotted in perfectly to the Australian's system and have drawn plaudits for their performances so far in the Premier League. Vicario has become Tottenham's first new main goalkeeper in 11 years after Hugo Lloris announced his intention to find a fresh challenge, one he is yet to find.

Postecoglou admitted that when he was presented with potential Lloris replacements that fit his system by the club's recruitment department, the 26-year-old Vicario stood out.

"It was probably the priority position when I came in because at the time it looked like Hugo was moving on and there was a need for a new starting goalkeeper," he said. "You get presented with some options and I just really liked Vic from the start in terms of the characteristics he has as a goalkeeper - his agility, his demeanour, his character.

"Then I spoke to him and he's just such an infectious personality. He was so determined. He was so determined he wanted to come to Tottenham and prove himself at the next level. If you look at his career, he hasn't had a long time at the top level, similar to Micky van de Ven and a couple of others.

"I like players who have worked their way up from a low level very quickly because it shows that they adapt very quickly but also that they're coachable, that they learn, and you look at Vic, and he's taken big steps very, very quickly and he's been absolutely outstanding for us in the first six or seven games.

"He's been a really strong influence on the field in the big moments when we've needed him and he comes in every day and wants to improve, and that's exactly what we need."

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When it came to Udogie, Postecoglou looked at the Italy U21 international left-back carefully following his loan season back at Udinese, having signed for Spurs a year ago.

"When I got the role I had a look at all the players who were out on loan last year and Destiny was one. I really liked his profile. Physically he's got outstanding attributes but he obviously played a different style of football in terms of a lot of times he was used as an attacking wing-back," he said.

"He made a real impact in a tough league as a young man. Serie A is a tough league. He handled himself really well and it was one of those where as soon as we got him in I could see that he wants to improve every day.

"He's got outstanding attributes and for a 20-year-old he's already had some really big challenges defensively and he's handled himself so well. When he has the ball and he runs forward he looks exciting. I'm really pleased to have him in the group."

Udogie was up against Bukayo Saka last weekend, improving with every passing minute of the match against Arsenal until he eventually dominated that flank, and now the young Italian faces the equally imposing threat of Mohamed Salah this Saturday when Liverpool come to town.

"That's the Premier League. That's why he's here," said Postecoglou. "There's no greater learning curve for him. That's the good thing. You saw last week, he had to work really hard against a top opponent but in the end he came out pretty good and he can't rest on that because he's got Salah this week and then he'll have somebody else, a Grealish or someone else, coming in the next weeks and he's got to cope with all of it, but so far he's doing very well."

So what is the secret to Postecoglou's ability to incorporate new and mostly young players into his team, with Pedro Porro and Pape Matar Sarr also excelling under him after mixed first seasons at the club?

"It just depends. You've got to make sure young players are going to be able to handle what comes playing at this level. You certainly don't want to expose them too early because it can have a detrimental effect," explained the Australian. "I've always felt - and again it's something that's been consistent when I'm building teams - I try to give them as much security as I possibly can, for them to know that there's nothing that's going to happen out there that's going to be terminal in terms of their careers.

"'Don't stress about the mistakes, don't stress about not playing well. I'll back you - as long as I'm seeing that you're improving and working hard and doing all the things I need you to do.' Because part of that stress as a young player is feeling like you need to play really well to keep your place in the team and fearing that if you make a mistake in front of the whole world that's going to cost you something.

"It's not just about the young players, all of us are in the same boat. We're setting off on a new course and there's potential it won't work. So we're all feeling the same. I'm no different to them, because I'm sure if after the first seven games, we were on two wins instead of four, I'm sure [the chairman] would be on at me right now.

"It's not how I think. It's not how I'm wired, I don't care about that. This is what we're doing. We're going to go down this road and be successful and I try to provide that framework so at least it releases that anxiety and they can play as themselves, and then it's up to them.

"There's no guarantee. If their performances drop, then of course they won't play but I think it helps the young players focus on being as much themselves without stressing too much about outcomes."

Son Heung-min celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium
Son Heung-min celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium

Postecoglou has also got his more experienced players firing again and Son Heung-min, the Premier League's second highest goalscorer so far this season, has relished being named club captain by the new head coach.

Saturday's visiting manager Jurgen Klopp once described missing out on signing Son as one of the biggest mistakes of his career. Postecoglou explained why he felt last season was not one of the best for the South Korean star when asked what he had changed for the player.

"In terms of Sonny, it’s fair to say, and he’s said it himself, I don’t think he was 100 per cent fit last year, but that’s his nature, if asked to play, he will play and do his utmost," he said. "I think that probably affected his form more than anything else. Last year was a bit of a unique year for a lot of players because of the World Cup. I don’t think it was a normal year in many respects for top players.

“The quality Sonny has, there is no doubt… I don’t think I’ve done anything dramatic to him, I think he just feels better. He’s had a good pre-season and loves playing for this football club. I think the way we’re playing really suits him for where he’s at in his career. I’m sure there is more to come."

And Postecoglou's own biggest transfer regret?

"Mate, I’ve probably made a thousand mistakes," he admitted. "You have to follow all these players, you get close to a few of them and didn’t get them, but such is life, mate. We all make mistakes and we all learn from them."

This Saturday brings the test of Klopp and Liverpool to challenge Postecoglou's record of 50 consecutive matches unbeaten at home. Brennan Johnson will miss out with a minor hamstring strain picked up against Arsenal, but the Spurs boss is hopeful that he will have Son and James Maddison fit and able to play after missing much of training this week with injuries.

"Over those 50 games I’ve had some big tests. I've had some good teams, to be fair. I put a lot of stock in home form because that’s the time when you can give your supporters, who you know are going to be the majority in the stadium, that feeling you want to give them, of experiencing their team winning a game of football," said Postecoglou.

"I put a lot of stock in that. It’s 50 games against all types of opposition, different types of circumstances, there would have been games in there where we were down to ten men, there would have been games where we would have been down, well two weeks ago, in the 95th minute. There are always tests to go for that long. I’ve probably been lucky along the way too."

Liverpool's arrival for Postecoglou's first competitive meeting with them is somewhat fitting because as a youngster growing up in Australia, he was a Liverpool fan. Australian television channels in the 1970s would show mostly either Manchester United or Liverpool matches and while his friends chose United, the young Postecoglou went for Liverpool to make things interesting and had posters of Kenny Dalglish on his wall.

"I felt that in my environment, all my mates were either Liverpool or Man United supporters. We would get a game a week and invariably it was one of those two teams so you were always attracted to them," he said. "The FA Cup final was always a massive game in Australia to watch and in the seventies Liverpool and Man United were always in it. So when you’re a young person, I just looked at the circle of influence around me and those were always the teams that got highlighted in that part of the world."

He remembered the games on television, watching with his father Jim in the early hours of the morning.

"[I remember] the European Cup finals and [in the league] they beat Tottenham 7-0 [early in the 1978 season], that was pretty memorable. I watched all of them mate, I didn't miss anything, I taped them, we had tapes, you know what tapes are? Videos?" he said with a laugh. "When they won the European Cups, I loved it. That’s 4am for me as an 11-year-old so a fair bit of commitment to getting up and watching them. I remember all those games.

"I do [still have the tapes], bizarrely, I don’t know what to do with them. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to stuff I grew up with so they’re in boxes somewhere."

For those Spurs fans worried where Postecoglou's allegiances might now lie, he made it clear earlier in his press conference that "you grow up, things change. I used to love Happy Days back then too, but I don't have pictures of The Fonz on my wall today either!".

One of the most impressive aspects of Postecoglou's transformation of Tottenham into one of the Premier League's most exciting teams is that he has done it without Harry Kane, who is now scoring goals in the colours of Bayern Munich. Despite the England captain's loss, Spurs have netted the third-highest tally of goals in the league.

"Credit to the players for that because it's not an insignificant thing. You can just see that Harry has gone and done it already. He's a world class striker," said the Australian. "If he’s not the best he’s in the top three you know. So, when you lose somebody of that significance, it can have an impact, but the players have not used that as a crutch or an excuse.

"They’ve embraced it and said 'Okay, we've just got to get on with it, our supporters are still coming to support us. They weren't here supporting Harry, they were supporting Tottenham’. That's for every football club. Fans support the club and clubs move on quickly and we have to move on quickly.

"There's no point feeling sorry for ourselves. There was no doubt that the area that was gonna get highlighted if we struggled was if we didn't score goals, because that was the obvious one. So it’s helped that the lads have embraced that part of our game, certainly being a part of the way I set the team up with threats in all different areas."

He added: "It's been great to see that our goals have come from different avenues - set pieces, counter-attacks, build-up play in the last minute to come from behind.

"So I think that's been great, because it doesn't allow that narrative that could have been very easy for it to run to say, well, if we hadn't started well, and it was because of a lack of goals, they'd be saying, well, you know, we haven't replaced Harry, but I think people are saying in the team that we're playing in a certain way now where they're more interested in seeing how this team develops rather than what's missing."

One thing you will find at Tottenham this season is a calm head coach on the touchline compared to the previous managers to have jumped around the technical area. Postecoglou mostly just watches and analyses, while barking out the odd bit of advice if he feels a player needs it.

"Look, I’ve had my moments, but I think with those things you can only just be yourself, that's who I am as a person," he said. "I watch a game of football like I watch a movie. I concentrate. I look at it, I don't like people talking to me, I don’t like being distracted and to be fair, I think I've probably gone down even a level in recent years because of VAR.

"I don’t want to look like a clown either because you could be celebrating then have it chalked off so I also have this thing in the back of my head - let's just wait and see what the outcome is - but it is who I am as a person and I really feel my role on game day is to make sure that I'm totally in the game, to focus as much as I can."

He added: "I think that depends on your personality. That’s how Jurgen is, that’s how Mikel is or Pep. All these guys, you see them and that's who they are as people and that's how they get themselves and you're probably right a lot of it is probably stress related.

"It’s how we cope with stress and we all cope with it differently. That's my coping mechanism but beyond that, I'm just myself out there. I try and do my role on the day of the game rather than sort of get too emotional."

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