Tottenham Hotspur defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto may not know who he’s playing against on Saturday and he certainly doesn’t care but this hasn’t stopped him from cementing his place in the Spurs starting eleven and maturing into one of the best left-backs in the Premier league.
The Cameroon international has thrived under Harry Redknapp and now finds himself a permanent fixture in the side but it has not always been this way.
Assou-Ekotto arrived in 2006, when Martin Jol was manager and, although initially impressing, he struggled with injury. He played only 2 games during the entire 2007/08 campaign and found himself behind Lee Young-Pyo in the pecking order. His inability to break into the first team continued under Juande Ramos and even three years into his Tottenham career he had never entirely convinced the managers or supporters that he could consistently perform. He rarely smiled and constantly chewed gum, doing little to dispel the impression that he didn’t care.
However, since he managed to secure a run in the side, his performances have not stopped improving. Most notably, his concentration (which was certainly suspect at times) and physicality are far better. Now, at 27 years old he is reaching his physical prime and his fitness and strength have allowed him to find more penetration further up the pitch and take more time on the ball. Last year he declared that he was prepared to lose a tooth or an eye for the club and that level of commitment and professionalism (it is certainly not to be mistaken as love for the club) is what is pushing Assou-Ekotto forward in his career. It is nearly impossible to steal the show as a left back and Ekotto’s emergence as one of Tottenham’s most consistent performers has certainly been a gradual one, however now he is playing at the top of his game.
Ekotto has had a slow-burning love affair with the Tottenham faithful, gaining popularity for his candid remarks about being a mercenary and seeing the game just as a job. He gets his hair cut on Tottenham High Road and travels around London on his Oystercard, saying that his mum didn’t teach him how to live like a star. His honesty is refreshing in a game full of PR prepped players and rumours of him turning up for home games with his suitcase expecting to travel only served to endear him further.
He does not believe in friendships within football which may perhaps make him a slightly odd presence in the dressing room after 5 years, just that guy in the corner who doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t need to say anything, he’s a premiership footballer who drives a smart car and that says it all really.