Patience has paid off for Kieran Trippier. After two seasons waiting in the wings at Tottenham, Kyle Walker’s sale this summer to Manchester City allowed Trippier to step into the spotlight – and he’s seized his chance, writes Peter Smith.
The flying full-back has made more Premier League starts this season than he did in either of his first two campaigns at Spurs, after joining from Burnley in June 2015. He’s had an important impact, too.
Trippier has already exceeded Walker’s assists tally from last season with six to his name across all competitions, while Tottenham have kept four clean sheets in the seven league fixtures he’s started.
For the Bury-born 27-year-old it is a satisfying reward after being back-up to Walker.
“I’m delighted,” Trippier told Sky Sports, when asked about his involvement and form this season. “When I first came here I knew it was going to be difficult challenging Walks for the spot, and I knew I was going to have to wait patiently. That’s what I’ve done. The training is difficult then and you have to be mentally strong. Now my opportunities are here, I just need to take them.”
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Those years out of the action weren’t wasted for Trippier, though. He describes boss Mauricio Pochettino as an “unbelievable manager” and is in no doubt about the significant improvement he’s made at Spurs as he sought to impress the Argentinean.
“I’ve really developed since I came here under the manager,” Trippier said. “He changed me into a different player. I’ve matured and he’s developed my game. Physically, he’s got my body into shape and listening to him tactically on the field, in defending and attacking, I’ve improved.
“The training here is really difficult, especially with all the gym we do. The manager makes sure we’re all prepared for the game, no matter who we’re playing, and our mindset is to go into the game with high intensity.
“Obviously it was difficult when you’re not playing but he has always got his arm around you, telling you chances will come and to keep working hard. That’s what I was doing. I kept working hard on the training field, kept trying to impress the manager.”
Pochettino has become convinced. After featuring in just three of Spurs’ first 27 Premier League games last season, Trippier made appearances in nine of the final 11 before being trusted as first-pick at right wing-back this time around.
One man who has been feeling the benefits of Trippier’s increased involvement is Harry Kane. Spurs’ star striker has eight goals in the Premier League so far – Trippier has set up exactly half of them.
The combination is an important one for Spurs and Kane is being provided with some first-class service.
Trippier is fast becoming regarded as one of the county’s top crossers. His 14 assists in Burnley’s 2013/14 promotion campaign in the Championship was evidence of his ability from out wide, but no player has a better rate of setting up goals in the Premier League since August 2015. This season he’s among the top three chance-creating defenders.
But the 27-year-old – who spent hours after training with Manchester City’s coaches to improve his crossing as a youth player – says his link-up play with Kane is no coincidence. It’s something the pair work hard on. “We talk during and before games,” he said. “Harry always says to me he wants the ball in early, so when I’m in those areas in the final third I don’t think twice.
“I know where he’s going to be because we practise in training and it’s my job to put it into dangerous areas. Obviously Harry knows me, knows that when I get the ball wide I look to get it into the box and most of the time he’s been there to score. Hopefully I can get in those areas as much as I can to try to chip in with a lot of assists so we can get him the golden boot again this season.”
It’s interesting to hear Trippier pick out Kane’s ambition to land a third individual top scorer prize as a goal. It sums up the obvious team spirit in the Tottenham camp but also Trippier’s respect for his England colleague.
“He’s the best professional I’ve ever met,” said Trippier. “Even when I first came here you could see he’s a leader. He’s so dedicated. At training he’s the first one in, last one out. Nobody works so hard and nobody deserves it more than him.
“The whole team recognise how good he is and you feel confident going into games knowing he might score one, two or three.
“But there’s not one person at Spurs who thinks ‘I’ll have a day off here’. Everyone works hard at this club, every player, playing or not. Harry sets the tone and other senior pros set the tone with him. Everyone works hard for each other.”
Trippier and Ben Davies discuss how they had to step up their fitness regimes in order to play for Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham
But what about personal ambitions? While he may be establishing himself as an important part of this Tottenham team, Trippier’s aim remains to keep on impressing Pochettino – and he hopes regular game time for his club could see him represent England at next summer’s World Cup where, once again, Walker stands in his way of a starting spot.
“Representing your country is the biggest honour, it’s a dream” said Trippier, who will be sporting Nike’s new Ice colourway this month. “It’s my aim to be on the plane to the World Cup but I want to keep working hard on the training field to impress the manager so I keep getting the nod to play.
“Walks is a great athlete but I can only focus on myself. I know what I need to do. I need to be playing week in, week out and do well for myself and the team to hopefully impress the England manager.”
With his mix of hard work and talent, Trippier is no doubt doing just that.
Kieran Trippier wears the Nike Mercurial Vapor XI, designed for explosive speed. Available now from nike.com.