An ode to Danny Rose: Why the Spurs defender with strong opinions is a breath of fresh air
“I’d love to see two or three — and not players you have to Google and say, ‘Who’s that?’” is one of the great lines in modern English football. It had a bit of everything: the spice of an ambitious player calling out his own club for their lacklustre signings, contextualised by a current, technological example.
In an age when Premier League footballers are media trained up to their eyeballs, Danny Rose, Tottenham Hotspur’s 28-year-old left-back, is quickly becoming the most interesting one around. Not afraid to tell it how it is, happy stick his neck out and share resentments his teammates feel but aren’t confident enough to say, in the stage-managed, increasingly stale world of elite football, Rose enjoys a spot of off-script improv, which is as fresh as a daisy.
It began with the searingly honest interview in The Sun in August 2017, when Rose suggested Spurs needed to start signing better players, and that he felt undervalued and underpaid. He was fined two weeks wages, apologised to manager Mauricio Pochettino, but was actually applauded by his teammates. There was plenty of time left in the transfer window and Rose could well have been sold then, but he remained.
Open and honest
Then last summer, when he opened up in another extraordinarily revealing account of his depression diagnosis. Sharing how a combination of a long-term absence from playing due to a knee injury, his uncle’s suicide, his mother being racially abused and his brother being shot at in their family home all contributed. Spurs did not come out of it particularly well, as he painted England as his “sanctuary” and implied his club were partly the cause of his troubles.
This came in a new full access, NFL-style media day organised in the lead up to the World Cup by England’s media team, who perhaps got a little more than they bargained for when they encouraged a culture of openness and honesty.
That felt like the point of no return for Rose. How could he possibly return from Russia and walk back into Tottenham’s Enfield training centre after that? But after the World Cup and before another Premier League season began, Rose had a conversation with Pochettino as frank as his media interviews.
“I called the manager and we spoke, we spoke for an hour before the first game at Newcastle and we spoke for an hour after that,” Rose reveals. “We spoke for quite a long time and the one main thing that stuck out from what he said to me was ‘Danny — stop wasting time’. So yeah, I’m not wasting any more time. I’ve got my head down again and I’m doing alright at the minute. I’m trying to get back to where I was a couple of years ago.
“[By that he meant] be fully focused on [Tottenham]. And if you’re not fully focused then you’re free to leave the club. So I told him that I am fully focused. And I’m going to be here to fight and help the club progress. And I hope that I am showing that in my performances and in training as well.”
Read more: Mauricio Pochettino inches closer to first trophy with Tottenham after comfortable win against Arsenal
Rose said in his Sun interview that his career was not going to last forever, he was going to make the most of it, financially and in terms of silverware, and that he had a lot of opinions that he wanted to voice. He has been as true to his word, as his words are strong.
Not long ago, he was laying bare his frustrations with the delay preventing Spurs moving into their new stadium, yet that came straight after they had beaten Southampton in a game only 33,000 fans turned up to watch at Wembley. Supporters were talking with their feet, and Rose was echoing that with his comments.
It is, quite frankly, refreshing to hear. PR managers have given up trying to control him and you sense that Pochettino, far from finding it a frustration, respects a player who has strong views they are not afraid to table. In truth, even those very first criticisms fell more on chairman Daniel Levy than the manager, who, by implication, was doing so well with players nobody (or Rose) had ever heard of.
It made enough of an impression for the Argentinian to choose Rose as his captain in the strong Spurs side who beat Arsenal away in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night, and he started in league victories against Southampton and Burnley and the draw with Barcelona which saw them through their Champions League group against the odds.
“It was a very proud moment for myself, especially because we won,” Rose said of being captain. “If I look back at where I was a year ago, I wasn’t playing too often. Now I have played three games in a week, we drew with Barcelona and we won a difficult game at the weekend against Burnley. And we won another difficult game here [against Arsenal]. So, yeah, it has been a great week for myself and for the team. Tonight was very special.”
And, of course, he did not hold back afterwards about what he thought of Arsenal’s celebrations when they had won the derby match in the Premier League only a few weeks before. More vintage Rose.
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