The Wales players, as Ben Davies tells it, were stunned. That disbelief was not because of the team’s progress to the Euro 2016 finals or anything else that happened on a pitch. It came when Davies told his international team-mates about the intensity of Mauricio Pochettino’s work on the Tottenham Hotspur training ground.
“Some of the players don’t believe it,” the left-back says. “But we’re not complaining when we’re second in the League and we’re playing better than a lot of teams in this League. It makes us feel proud of it.”
It makes most opposition teams feel exhausted after playing them, as Watford’s manager Quique Sanchez Flores revealed last week when he described Spurs players as “animals”. Fellow professionals being impressed with their intensity is one thing. Fellow professionals being amazed at their “crazy sessions” is something else. Hard work is supposed to be a given at the top level but, according to Davies, Pochettino has taken it to another level altogether.
It also means there is no disbelief within the Spurs squad at how high they are in the League. “Maybe it’s a surprise to other people but, as a group, this is what we want to be doing,” Davies says. “Everybody here is trying to push themselves as far as they can.” So, can they push themselves as far as the title?
Pochettino would prefer the team to “show” and “do” rather than talk. While Davies is not ruling anything out. “We haven’t discussed anything yet. We know we’ve put ourselves in a good position and as good as we could. It’s really about the next game and every game is massive for us from here on in.” Spurs are at Manchester City today. Win that, and the talk will get as intense as their running.
Davies was speaking at the training ground on Thursday and, with the dirt and cuts on his legs, looked like he had been working hard. “We had a good session this morning, which has taken it out of a lot of us, but it’s all controlled, all planned. We wouldn’t do crazy sessions two days before a game whereas, today, three days before, we can afford to have a good go at it.” Davies speaks with an assuredness that would make people think he is older than his 22 years. That mature sense of responsibility is what Pochettino wanted in order to hone such a high-functioning unit.
It comes across when Davies explains a bit more about the fitness approach. The Welshman had been living away from his parents’ house for only six months before leaving Swansea City for London in 2014, so he had to learn a few more dishes in the kitchen. Pochettino does not insist on specific meals but conditions the players to eat healthily.
“We have body fat tests regularly, every two weeks,” Davies explains. “We used to have it [at Swansea], but not as often and probably not as strictly enforced. It’s obviously something we have to keep an eye on and, if we’re not at the required levels, you have to work on your diet. I think every manager has got to have that strictness about them, but you know, he’s got every player’s respect here and everyone’s bought into exactly what he wants.
“I think, when you first start putting all the work in, it’s tough. You have to be determined enough to be able to put up with it every day to get yourself fit and maybe at times it gets hard but I think now maybe we see the rewards out on the field.
“We’re covering more distance than teams, we’re able to press teams and not give them a moment on the ball. That’s not just for 20-30 minutes, that’s throughout the whole game. The amount of goals and way we play towards the end of games really does show with the fitness, and as players you’re able to keep going for longer.”
Davies, particularly, feels it at full-back, which is one of the most demanding positions in a Pochettino team because of how much he requires them to run, so they are regularly rotated. “We’re expected to get up and attack a lot more and that’s another reason for our fitness levels. You have to be a lot more cutting edge really, when you’re in the final third. You saw Trips [Kieran Trippier] get a goal for us at the weekend. Looking back on TV, he’s ran 80 yards from defending the ball to get up and get a goal, and that’s part of our job in this team. [The competition] keeps you on your toes every day in training. There’s no slacking, otherwise you’re not going to be in the team.”
Davies is finally asked whether he plans a holiday at the end of all this, but his summer is constrained by another impressive feat: Euro 2016 with Wales. He does not complain. It all comes back to something he said about how hard Spurs work and the lack of days off. “We don’t seem to get hardly any and [other teams] have quite a lot. It can be about having a few nice days off or be about doing well at the end of the season, I know what we prefer.”Reuse content