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."Reuse content