By London correspondent Tony Hughes
Jan Vertonghen has revealed that “experience” enabled him to slot seamlessly back into the Tottenham team ahead of Kevin Wimmer.
Vertonghen has made a smooth return to the title-chasing side after being recalled as Toby Alderweireld’s centre-back partner for the 3-0 win over Manchester United a fortnight ago.
The all-Belgian partnership was once again the foundation of the 4-0 victory at Stoke a week ago and is set to continue for Monday night’s must-win match at home to West Brom.
Wimmer, the 23-year-old Austrian, repaid Pochettino’s faith and did little wrong in the 15 matches in which he stood in for his senior team-mate but lost out after Vertonghen was deemed fit enough to make his comeback following two-and-a-half months out with knee ligament damage.
The centre-back, who turned 29 on Sunday, has been spoken warmly of by the manager, who values his leadership and proven qualities.
Asked how he had looked so comfortable back in the team following his knee injury, Vertonghen told Spurs TV: “Maybe that’s experience. The funny thing is when you are injured and people talk to you about being out they say ‘but it must have been nice to have a holiday’.
“I just think ‘what do you think I’m doing, just relaxing at home until my knee is good again?’ A lot of work goes into it, especially when you are injured.
“You see the lads training and you see what you are missing. It was quite tough sometimes but it makes you understand what you miss when you aren’t out there.”
Asked if it had been tough to choose between the two centre-backs last Sunday, Pochettino told Spurs TV nine day ago: “It’s better it is done by us as we know the reality inside the changing room and every training session. My difficult decision was to play Kevin when Jan got injured.
“There were different alternatives. Maybe I could have played Eric Dier and Toby [Alderweired] in the centre. But I showed trust in Kevin Wimmer, a young player who came from Germany and needed time to adapt to the team.
“He played very well but Jan Vertonghen is one of the leaders of the team and is an international player. He was fit and deserved to play because he has worked very hard. The decision was easy for me. With the performance and the quality, Jan showed why he deserved to play.”
Spurs are eight points behind leaders Leicester ahead of their fixture against West Brom, which they must win to keep their title hopes alive.
In other Tottenham news, Moussa Dembele names three fringe players that are just as good as the regulars.