By Alex Stevens
Dominic Ball has revealed that Eric Dier is his inspiration as he continues to flourish following his positional shift at Rangers this season.
The highly-rated Tottenham 20-year-old has spent the entire campaign on loan at Ibrox to gain crucial first-team experience.
Ball has followed the trail blazed by Spurs mainstay Dier by moving forward from his more recognised central defensive role into a midfield anchorman position.
It is a switch that has paid dividends for Rangers as the centre-back-turned-defensive midfielder has played a significant part in Rangers’ Scottish Championship title triumph and progress to the Scottish Cup final.
“What Mauricio Pochettino has seen in Eric Dier to put him in there could perhaps be seen as similar to what the gaffer here has done with me,” Ball told the Tottenham website.
“It gives you that support at the back and also Eric’s got that ability on the ball to play out, which I think I’ve got as well.
“Generally I’ve found it quite good in that role, I enjoy it and I think I go in there with the sort of mentality that I’m a third defender. That’s why I think the gaffer likes playing me there because I’m quite defensive-minded and against a team like Celtic it gives you more support at the back.
“I go in there like a third centre-half but obviously try to break up the play as well as doing my defensive duties, always looking to get on the ball to try to get us ticking.”
Ball was instrumental in Rangers defeating Celtic in their landmark Scottish Cup semi-final win eight days ago as well as lifting the Scottish Challenge Cup a week earlier.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton strongly suggested earlier this month that Ball and fellow on-loan Premier League player Gedion Zelalem, whose parent club is Arsenal, will not be members of Rangers squad next season as they attempt to establish themselves in the top flight with the north London giants.
The decision will ultimately rest with Pochettino and his Arsenal counterpart, Arsene Wenger.
But England Under-20 international Ball, who joined the Spurs academy in 2011, hinted that his development would be best served by another campaign on loan at Rangers.
“I love the lads here, and the manager, and I’d definitely be open to coming back here,” said Ball, as quoted by the Rangers website. “But it’s down to Spurs and the manager there. I’ll have to see what the options are and what the manager at Spurs wants. I’m contracted with them and I keep in touch with them every couple of weeks.
“The manager down there has built a really good squad and a strong mentality to the team. Because of that, it’s encouraging to know that, if I do stay down there, I’ve got to push really hard to get in that team and he’ll develop me as a player.
“But I haven’t been there so I don’t know the standard. We’re talking about three or four world-class players playing at centre-back and holding-mid. I’m probably not ready to go in there, but I’ll push. I believe in myself to see what happens.”
In other Tottenham news, Thierry Henry has predicted that outcome of Spurs’ final four matches of the season.