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Gareth Bale: Benchwarmer To Benchmarker

Ask any fan of a world class Spurs player and the first top pop into your head is Gareth Bale. The Welshman may not be of the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo, but he is certainly one of the game’s most naturally gifted Wingers. Nikhil Saglani gives us the low down on a player he is quite happy to call his favourite. 

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When fans hear the name Gareth Bale, they instantly think pace, power and potential. He is currently regarded as one of the best young players in football. When the opposition read his name on the team sheet, they automatically decide on how to cope. His speed over short distance is something every defender in the world would have nightmares about. But his footballing career hasn’t been all cosy. When he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007, he was regarded as a quick left back with a certain talent at set pieces – we all know that this is long in history.

His first two years, it had to be said, were a nightmare. He didn’t win a game in 24 starts, despite scoring his first goal for us away to Fulham, before following that up with a beautiful free-kick in the North London derby at White Hart Lane. It wasn’t until the 2009/10 season when Bale got his first real chance. Until this time, he’d been eagerly awaiting his opportunity to showcase his worth to then manager Harry Redknapp. He spent many a game as an unused substitute and found first-team football hard to come by. But when Benoit Assou-Ekotto picked up a groin injury, ruling him out for a month, Bale got a chance to prove his worth. And has he looked back? He most certainly has not.

Bale netted in consecutive London derbies at White Hart Lane against Arsenal then Chelsea, before rounding it off with a goal on the last day of our successful season at Burnley. His goals and assists allowed Spurs to push on for that 4th place finish and Champions League spot.

Moving into the 2010/11 season, the youngster only improved. I don’t think any Spurs fan will ever forget his heroics against Serie A giants Inter Milan both home and away. Being 4-0 down at the San Siro, Bale netted a hat-trick and allowed the club to leave Italy with some respect on our side. Then at White Hart Lane, he gave Maicon and the Nerazzuri a real wake-up call as to his capabilities, coining the now famous chant “taxi for Maicon” to set up two goals in Spurs’ 3-1 win.

Ever since those two important games in the Champions League, he has gone from strength to strength. The Welshman was instrumental to Spurs’ success in the Champions League and also our successful League season. Of course, while all this was happening, Bale was attempting to break into the Wales international team. Now that he is an established and experienced figure in both camps, he is able to focus on improving his own game. In the 2011/12 season, he once again helped us to a 4th place finish that, in the past, would have been enough to have guaranteed a place amongst Europe’s elite, only for Chelsea to win the competition on penalties against Bayern Munich in Germany.

Now under Andre Villas-Boas, we can see Bale improving his abilities even more and developing the technical side to his game. If he continues in this way, fans can only see him getting better. He has already attracted the attention of some of the biggest teams in the world and in his current world-beating form; it would be hard to deny him a move to the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. To see him develop from the young, left-back benchwarmer to an international, left wing wizard setting a benchmark for all those in his position has been a joy to watch.

If he continues to progress the way he has done over the past three years, it won’t be long before Bale is plying his trade with one of football’s biggest teams. It would be ideal for the Welshman to remain at White Hart Lane, but fans are all too aware that once Europe’s elite come sniffing around, it’s hard to convince the best players to remain in North London. Until then, however, it will be worth just sitting back and admiring the capability of the youngster because, once it does, Spurs fans will be ruing the day they didn’t do more to take in the sheer quality of the Welsh Wizard. 

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