How would you assess the season so far from a personal perspective?
At the start of the season, the first thing I wanted was to be injury free. Including internationals and Olympics I’ve played more than 30 games already this season so that’s out of my mind, and that’s been nice. I’ve made more appearances for the club than I did in the whole of last season, but it’s only January and there’s still a long way to go. I want to get as many appearances as I can and hopefully help the team to win some silverware.
We’ve played our best football when our tempo has been high; does that suit your style of play?
Yeah, it does suit my game being box-to-box, high energy, and hopefully that can get the job done against teams. We have played some really good stuff when it’s fast, one-touch football. It suits me and hopefully I can help bring that to the team. I think especially at home, if we’ve got teams under a lot of pressure, they can struggle if we don’t give them a second to breathe. It doesn’t really play on my mind when I’m out there; I just play my own game and concentrate on winning.
For the young players, how valuable are the experiences of last season this time around?
They’re valuable. I don’t think we got complacent last year, it was maybe just a couple of bad performances or a lack of concentration, I don’t know. I’m just taking every game as it comes, but we definitely don’t want to feel how we felt at Sunderland last season, so it’s all about 100 per cent concentration and workrate in every game we’ve got.
What’s different about the team this year, as opposed to last year?
Obviously we’ve all got the experience of last year and so we know how hurt we were on the last day. We’ve got a couple of additions: Shinji, Robin, Alex and Nick, and they’ve all done well. There’s a great team spirit. There was last year, too, to be fair, but there’s a good feeling around the place which is fantastic and to me it just feels like a group of winners. Hopefully we can do it.