Gomes eager to emulate PSV run with Spurs
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Tottenham Hotspur FC keeper Heurelho Gomes tells Champions magazine why the Londoners could produce a UEFA Champions League run to rival his old club PSV Eindhoven's in 2005.
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In the latest edition of Champions magazine, Tottenham Hotspur FC goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes reflects on his past UEFA Champions League experience with PSV Eindhoven – and draws comparisons with a Tottenham side enjoying their group stage debut under Harry Redknapp. "I see the same spirit at Spurs," said the 29-year-old Brazilian, who believes "anything could happen" if the Londoners qualify from Group A.
Five years ago you were a UEFA Champions League semi-finalist with PSV. What do you remember about that campaign?
Heurelho Gomes: It was really cruel to lose the semi-final [on away goals] to AC Milan after an outstanding effort in the second leg, but I have good memories. We shocked a lot of people by reaching the last four and pushing the Italians to the limit. For many PSV players, that campaign resulted in a lot of visibility. Park Ji-Sung, for example, went to Manchester United.
How do you think the tournament has changed since 2005?
Gomes: It has definitely got stronger as football has evolved. The game has got more physical since 2005 and that helps the smaller teams make things difficult for the favourites. You don't have a situation any more where one or two clubs are natural favourites. The fact no team has successfully defended the Champions League for 20 years is evidence enough. Even the lowest-ranked teams put up a decent fight. They balance things out with their desire and physicality.
Guus Hiddink was your manager at PSV. What did you learn from him?
Gomes: Guus was a fantastic guy, not only for what he did on the pitch. He was fundamental in helping me settle at PSV when I arrived lacking experience in life and in football – it was the first time I'd lived abroad and Guus was like a father to me. When a family member was ill in Brazil he told me I could go and stay away as long as I needed. His training sessions were so interesting we didn't have time to feel tired. He understands brilliantly what goes on in players' heads.
How do you think this Tottenham squad compares with that PSV side?
Gomes: It's tricky to compare, but maybe you can point to the absence of superstars and the presence of young players willing to work their socks off. That PSV side, for example, had only Phillip Cocu as a famous name, but the other players showed that no team would walk over us. I see the same spirit at Spurs and hope we can emulate 2004/05. We have a group that is growing together at the same time and individuals who are making progress. Gareth Bale, for example, is coming along really well.
Would reaching the last 16 be satisfactory?
Gomes: I am an optimist. When I joined Spurs, I said my goal was to win the Premier League. People laughed, but that's how I am. If we make the knockout stages, anything could happen.
How crucial is Ledley King?
Gomes: Without his knee problems, he would be one of the best defenders in the world. Ledley doesn't talk much but him just being in the dressing room has a positive effect on the lads. I once told him he should be there even when he is not playing, such is his importance for the group.
Manager Harry Redknapp is making his Champions League debut this season. How has he changed things at White Hart Lane?
Gomes: Spurs have a lot of British players, which can be a problem for a manager not used to the game here. That was a major factor with Juande Ramos. Harry didn't try to change the players' natural game too much. It's quite simple, but sometimes doing the simplest thing is the most difficult. Harry is a great motivator, he knows how to work the players up.
You are 29. Have you reached your peak as a goalkeeper?
Gomes: There are many good years ahead. I've not given up on my dream of playing regularly for Brazil. I'll be 33 in 2014, which isn't old for a keeper. I see no reason to doubt that things can only get better.
Did you always dream of being a footballer?
Gomes: I was 19 when I first received formal training as a keeper. Quite late, I know, but until then I'd spent most of my life on a farm in south-east Brazil. I became a keeper by accident, playing in goal in a local tournament. I was good as an outfield player – tall and skilful like [Peter] Crouchie.
This article is from the latest edition of Champions, the official UEFA Champions League magazine. Subscribe here.