experienced and more confident, so I just relax more. The first couple of years I was so desperate to score I was probably going up the other end of the pitch and not thinking about what I was actually doing. I was just thinking, ‘I need to score, I need to score’. Sometimes you’ve just got to have that bit of composure, not try too hard and get yourself in the right positions.
Which of your team-mates has impressed you most this season?
I actually think Rafael has done really well. He has shown real maturity. His brother has gone out on loan now and it’s probably given him a lot more responsibility. Because of the injuries, too, there hasn’t been much competition for him at right back so he has really stepped into the position and made it his own.
Is Rafael’s situation similar to what you experienced breaking into the team?
Rafael is a lot younger than me but he stepped into the first-team probably in the same season I did. We both made our breakthrough seasons in that same year. He probably played about 30 games that season, which is incredible for a young player. Even back then you knew he was going to be a fantastic player. He has been for a number of years. Some people have criticised his all-action style, but I think he has managed to find the right balance now and he’s become, I think, one of the best full-backs in the world.
What’s the relationship like between the defenders? Are you mates? Do you encourage each other in training and games?
Yeah, definitely. We always say, ‘well done’ if someone has a good game. I know that, at other clubs, you get people thinking that if another player plays in their position they want them to do badly. That’s life in a way - people don’t want someone else to come in and do their job better than them. But I’ve never really taken that point of view. I don’t think any of the lads in this team think, ‘When he comes into the team, I hope he makes a mistake today’. We’re all in it together,