Exclusive Ricardo Rocha interview PDF Print E-mail

Tottenham defender on England, Portugal and tough guys

RochaPortuGOAL brings you an exclusive three-part interview with Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Ricardo Rocha.

The Portugal international built his reputation as a tough-tackling, whole-hearted and no-nonsense defender, but also as an honest and hard-working professional. Those very same personal qualities come to the fore in an insightful and frank interview about his own career and football in England and Portugal.

In Part I the former Benfica defender talks about how he coped with “the toughest period in my career” after being sent to train with the reserves. He also explains what he believes lies behind the remarkable transformation brought about by new Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.

PortuGOAL: Generally things are looking better for you now aren’t they?
Yeah, much better. Me and four of my team-mates were in a difficult situation because we were sent to the reserve squad. But we are professionals so we kept training every day, and since things changed at the club regarding the coach we have been called up for the first team again. Now we are part of the team and we’re training every day to be playing.

PortuGOAL: Was that time the toughest period of your career?
Yeah, for sure, because nothing like that has ever happened in my career. Almost two years ago I was playing in the Champions League and the national team, and in two years things have changed a lot. But it was good for me because I could see the other side of football that players don’t like. It was a difficult situation, but I think as a man and as a player I grew a little bit.

PortuGOAL: There was some talk that you may have moved on during the summer. Did anything come close to happening there?
Yeah. I had some proposals but nothing was agreed with the club so I stayed here.

PortuGOAL: What about away from the pitch, are you happy in England? How has the adaptation been?
In the beginning it was easy because when you are playing things work out better off the pitch. Then with the difficult situation I went through it was difficult for me and my family, but we stuck together and were united. But I like England. I’ve been here two years in January so I’m used to all the customs and daily life.

PortuGOAL: Do you socialise with the other London-based Portuguese players, such as at Chelsea?

In the beginning we spoke a lot because they were trying to support me because I was in a different country and there were different things I had to get used to. But not now, just mainly the Brazilians here at Tottenham, Gomes and Gilberto.

PortuGOAL: What do you miss about Portugal?

I have to say everything! The food, the weather, the people - I have all my friends there. But if anyone moves country they will miss their home so I think it’s the same thing.

PortuGOAL: As well as your situation improving, the team is getting better as well. What do you believe Harry Redknapp has done to change things so much?
I think there have been a lot of changes. Before we were not winning and the team was in a very difficult situation. The truth is that since he arrived things are much better. We’ve won a lot of games: we’re improving in the league; we’re winning in the Uefa Cup. So things are very good.

I think he’s a very experienced coach. He talks to every player and he makes every player count for the team’s success. You have to have the support of your players and be able to count on them in any situation.

PortuGOAL: You are back involved with the group now, but it must be hard to stay patient. You arrived here from Benfica, the biggest club in Portugal, where you played in the Champions League. You must want to get back to that kind of level.
I have not played since I was injured and had my surgery, so for me the most important thing is to start playing again because I miss playing at the highest level. I have played a few games for the reserves but it’s not the same.

I have to be patient because I’m an experienced player and I know how things are. We have a fantastic team with fantastic players, so it’s not easy for me or any player to play every single week. But, of course, I haven’t played for one year. I don’t know what my future will be but I just want to do my best every day and the coach has to decide who plays.

2 December 2008, by Sean Gillen

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