As we tick down the days until the Champions League final against Liverpool on June 1 (EIGHT MORE SLEEPS), Tottenham Hotspur is highlighting some of the “big Champions League moments” on their website. Today’s moment is from Kyle Walker-Peters, and it’s a moment that I’m sure he’d rather forget.
Who can forget the match against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in December. Spurs needed to equal or better Inter Milan’s result against PSV in the final group stage match to advance to the Round of 16, a daunting challenge at the best of times. And when Kyle made a critical defensive error that led to an Ousmane Dembele goal after just seven minutes, things looked bleak.
But to hear him tell it, it the support KWP got from his Tottenham teammates in that pressure-cooker of a match that made the difference and helped him grow from the experience.
“That night, I learned things about myself I didn’t even know. How can I put it? If I was at home and I thought about that happening I wouldn’t imagine myself recovering in the way I did.
“I ended up blocking a chance from Philippe Coutinho at 1-0 in the second half and had a decent game. I learned a lot in that match and the reaction I got from people was all positive.
“I give credit to all my team-mates, Danny Rose, Harry Kane, as soon as I made the mistake, they were straight over to me and saying ‘stay calm, you’ve got the ability, keep playing’. That’s what I did and their words helped me a lot.”
Pochettino may not have been as forgiving as Kane and Rose, at least in the moment. That was the match where KWP was more or less shunted into midfield with Moussa Sissoko covering the right back position before being subbed off for Erik Lamela midway through the second half. But it worked out — Lucas Moura scored from a lovely cross by Harry Kane and Spurs escaped the Nou Camp with a draw and a ticket to the knock-out rounds.
I don’t mean to crap on KWP. I like this story in particular because of the anecdote about Kane and Rose immediately going over to Kyle to help pick him up. That’s what experienced leaders do for their teammates, and according to Kyle it went a long way towards him being able to shake off a bad start and learn from the experience.
There’s a distinctive possibility that KWP might be the only right back currently at Spurs left standing by the end of the transfer window. We don’t know for certain, but if he is still here when Spurs kick off their new campaign, it’s because Pochettino feels like he can contribute in a positive way to this team. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you learn from them and improve that can make you a better footballer. KWP made a big one in Barcelona, but it certainly seems like he learned the right lesson.
“It’s hard to describe this season. The main thing for me is that it shows the manager has faith in me and I’ve said that on numerous occasions. For me, that’s most important.
“It’s been a good season, again. The manager has given me opportunities at different times and I’ve just done my best. It’s up to me to take those chances and show what I can do. On the whole, it’s been good.
“We’ve finished in the top four again in the Premier League, qualified for Champions League again next season and now we’re in the Champions League Final. I can’t complain!”