Just two seasons ago, Gareth Bale was in and out of the team at Tottenham and the butt of a cruel statistic that Spurs always lost when he played. But a move from left-back to left midfield saw a meteoric improvement in his performances as Bale went on to score a hat-trick and terrorise Inter Milan’s Maicon, take the PFA Player of the Year award for 2010/11, plus he was recently linked with a big-money move to Barcelona.
Life’s A Pitch’s Mike Calvin caught up with Gareth as he opened the BT Infinity Star Ride at Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland and asked the Spurs winger what he puts his progress down to, how it feels to be wanted by Barcelona, and just how far Tottenham and Wales can go.
“I’ve improved massively, I’ve grown up a lot,” Gareth explains of his form for Tottenham and Wales. “I’m heading in the right direction and as long as I keep putting in the hard work I’m sure I’ll keep getting better.”
The downside of such fame, of course, is that he has become a marked man. Not that it fazes Gareth. “Since a year ago, a lot of teams have put two players on me. This year there have been a few teams that try to corner you out to try and stop the ball coming to you. That’s where I’ve grown as a player. I’m starting to come in field a bit more and mix my game up. It’s hard for them to try and stop me.”
His ability to do this has made European Champions Barcelona sit up and take notice. But Gareth’s determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground and not let their interest distract him. “It’s obviously nice to be linked with a club like that. But nothing goes through my mind. I know I’m at Tottenham, I’m enjoying my football – which is the most important thing for me – I’m playing week in, week out, progressing as a player.”
And with Tottenham flying this season, Gareth sees no reason why they can’t pip Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool for third place. ”If you watched us play this year, we’ve played some unbelievable football. At times, teams haven’t been able to cope with us, we’re moving the ball really well. That’s probably the key to our success this year. The way we play football, teams just don’t know how to defend against it.
“There’s no reason why we can’t [finish third]. We’ve played most of the top teams this year and we’ve had good results against Arsenal and Liverpool. We know it’s going to be a really difficult season, there are a lot of games to play, but we’re confident that with the football we’re playing now we can go as high as we can.”