Spurs star Townsend: Why my first game in Cyprus is a ‘special occasion’
12:01 20 August 2014
EXCLUSIVE: Andros Townsend hopes tomorrow’s Europa League play-off tie in Cyprus can be a launchpad for him at Tottenham – just like last season.
And the 23-year-old winger is particularly keen to earn a starting spot against AEL Limassol in Larnaca because he is half Cypriot and would be playing in the country for the first time.
It was this very week last year when Townsend started his stellar rise at Spurs, seizing his opportunity in an unglamorous Europa League tie against Dinamo Tbilisi in Georgia by scoring a stunning solo opening goal and setting up another two in a 5-0 victory.
Less than two months later the wide man was hitting the net on his England debut in a World Cup qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley.
And, although injuries then derailed his campaign and ruled him out of the World Cup, he is keen to impress Mauricio Pochettino – and his own family.
“Last season, the Dinamo Tbilisi game was really the one that made me push on,” he said. “This time it’s special for me again because I’m half Cypriot and to go out and play in Cyprus for the first time will be quite special. Hopefully I can get the nod and have a similar impact as I did last year.
“My mum’s Cypriot [from Limassol] and I’ve got family there who are hopefully going to come and watch me for the first time, so it should be a good game, a special occasion.
“I think, no matter what game you’re playing in, as long as you’re playing in front of the first-team manager there’s always opportunities to impress – whether it’s a training match or a Europa League match.
“I did that last year and hopefully some of the boys who are on the bench this year can do the same.”
While Townsend was absent from the England squad at the World Cup, he was a pundit in Brazil and took a personal trainer with him to continue his rehabilitation from his ankle injury and build his fitness.
He enjoyed an impressive pre-season, scoring a fine late winner in a 3-2 victory over MLS outfit Toronto and setting up Harry Kane’s early strike in the 6-1 triumph over Celtic before catching the eye as a substitute in the last warm-up game against Schalke.
Townsend also had an effect off the bench in the Premier League opener at West Ham on Saturday, forcing Adrian into a good save from 25 yards, and he is pleased with his own form – and the opening-day result.
“I’ve been out for a while, it’s well-known, but for me to come back in my first Premier League game and to have that impact was pleasing,” he said.
Townsend added: “I felt sharp, I felt good, and my shots were good – it was only good saves that kept them out.
“I take confidence from that and hopefully now I can get some starts and push on and back to where I was last season.
“Because I had the opportunity over the summer to get fit and do my rehab I feel fitter than ever, and the game showed that. I felt sharp and I’m ready to kick on now and have another good season.
“On the first day of the season it’s just important to get the three points on the board, no matter how you do it – but to beat one of your rivals in the last minutes of the game, at their home patch, it doesn’t get better than that.
“West Ham beat us a few times last season and they had the bragging rights over the summer but, on the first day of the season, to keep one of your close rivals quiet, there’s no better feeling than that – and to do it in those circumstances is perfect for us.”
While Townsend is now looking forward to tomorrow’s game in Cyprus, he has also got one eye on Sunday’s Premier League home match against QPR, having spent half a season on loan with Harry Redknapp’s side in 2013.
“I had some good times at QPR and it will be good to see all the boys and the manager again,” he said.
“But hopefully it ends there and we get the three points that we deserve in front of our home crowd.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs