An emotional Dele Alli spoke about his heartache at Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking as Tottenham boss.
Pochettino was fired last week after a poor start to the season and replaced by Jose Mourinho less than 12 hours later.
Alli was a key ally of Pochettino, having been brought to the club from MK Dons as an 18-year-old by the Argentinian, and was one of several players who went to visit their former coach.
“It’s clear to everyone how much Poch meant to the players,” he said ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League clash with Olympiacos. “Being here for nearly five years he has seen me grow as a person and helped me a lot.
“I came here as an 18-year-old, new to it all and I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs here but he’s helped me through it all. I can’t thank him enough.
“I felt it was important as soon as I saw the news. I was very upset but I tried to get in contact with him and the next day I went to see him.
“It was just a conversation between two friends. He has helped me through a lot – I’ve seen him more than I see my own family in the last five years, so it was very tough.
“But this is football and things change all the time so we know what we have to do. We have a job to do, we have to move forward.
“But for sure he is someone I’m going to stay in contact with.
“It will be different because he’s not the manager but he’s an amazing person and helped me so much throughout my career – not just in football but in life as well.
“When it first happened… you just blame yourself, you are sad and don’t look at the big picture.”
It did not take Mourinho long to make his mark on Alli after the Portuguese made a training ground joke about the midfielder playing like his brother.
Alli, who produced his best performance in recent months in Saturday’s 3-2 win over West Ham, revealed that ribbing was the first thing Mourinho had said to him.
He accepted that Mourinho’s comment was essentially a criticism of his form, but was happy to take it on the chin.
“I suppose (it was a criticism) but a lot of people have been saying that so it was nothing new,” he added.
“In that sense. To have it honestly said to your face was nice because a lot of people would prefer to say it behind your back.”
That was a barbed comment in relation to some strong criticism aimed at Alli over his drop in form over the last 12 months.
The 23-year-old, who has been left out of the last three England squads, admits he has ran out of excuses for his poor displays last season, but is not paying too much attention to the critics.
“It didn’t shock me, playing in the Premier League you expect it when you are not performing to be criticised.
“For me I have been a professional for a few years now, I am still young and I have a lot to learn and improve.
“I am an experienced player but it is just important you listen to the right people.
“I am my own biggest critic. I know what I need to work on. Some peoples’ opinions are for the right reasons and some are just to jump on the bandwagon.
“I know where I am in my career and I know where I want to improve.”