Redknapp told me to toughen up, says Bale after taking Welsh award

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The Independent Football

Gareth Bale has revealed how showdown talks with Harry Redknapp made him "toughen up" and helped him become one of the most talked about players in Europe.

The full-back turned winger has been one of the stars of 2010, both in the Premier League and the Champions League, with his performances against Internazionale in Europe giving him a meteoric rise in status.

It is a fairytale turnaround for a player who had an injury-blighted start to life at Spurs and had to wait a record 24 Premier League games to be part of a winning side after joining them from Southampton nearly four years ago. Even at the start of this year, when he finally managed to hold down a regular first-team slot, Spurs fans were voicing doubts that the 21-year-old would ever fulfil his potential.

"Looking back on some things, I think, 'Wow'," Bale said after adding the 2010 BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality award to his Welsh Footballer of the Year prize. "A year ago, I did not think I would be doing stuff like that. It did take a while for me to hold down a first-team spot at Tottenham – longer than I expected.

"I had a lot of injuries and was out for eight months with my foot injury and six months with my knee injury. But I don't think I ever thought my future lay elsewhere. When I wasn't playing, I went in to see the manager and to ask when was I going to be given my chance. There were a lot of things the manager wanted me to do and there were certain aspects of my game I needed to improve on.

"And he wanted me to toughen up as I was still a young boy at the time So I worked hard in training to prove to him that I was worthy of a spot in the team. He always said, 'Be patient and keep working hard in training and you will get your chance'. I just had to be prepared and ready to give 100 per cent when the chance came. And I got my chance and never looked back.

"I have always had the belief in my own ability, so I knew if I trained hard and was patient, things would happen for me. But I feel the main reason for my good form is playing week in week out – playing regularly is the best way for me to improve. In every game I'm learning and growing in confidence."

He added: "If someone had said to me a year ago that I would one day be described as one of the best players in the Premier League and best left-sided players in the world, I would not have believed them. But I try to keep myself away from what is written and said about me. I know there was a lot going on after the Inter Milan games and there was a lot of talk, but I switched off to that and concentrated on training.

"I must keep my feet on the ground to continue progressing. I must keep working hard as hard work is the reason why I've had a good year."