Benoit Assou-Ekotto – The unheralded mercenary with genuine affection for Spurs

Benoit Assou-Ekotto is an unsung hero in Tottenham Hotspur’s ranks; he has also proven to be a breath of fresh air. In a culture where badge kissing and generic sound bites are the norm, Assou-Ekotto is honest, candid and appears to have his priorities very clearly defined. “If I play football with my friends back in France, I can love football,” he has previously explained. “But if I come to England, where I knew nobody and I didn’t speak English … why did I come here? For a job. A career is only 10, 15 years. It’s only a job. Yes, it’s a good, good job and I don’t say that I hate football but it’s not my passion.”

He may be a self-confessed mercenary, but he rebuffed the advances and riches of Paris St-Germain in the summer and left his sickbed at 7am to travel to Wigan by taxi to play the full 90 minutes in a recent 2-1 win. A complicated character he may be, but in light of Carlos Tevez refusing to play for Manchester City, this kind of commitment to the cause would appear to be all too rare amongst the pampered elite at the highest level. He was also one of the few that got actively involved during the recent riots, urging footballers to play their part in addressing problems within the community.

On the pitch, he is a consummate professional and has made in excess of 100 appearances for Spurs, he has also formed a formidable partnership with Gareth Bale on the left flank. His steady presence allows the Welshman to terrorise the opposition, aware that his defensive duties are not a pressing concern and can be kept to a bare minimum. “It’s easy to play behind Gareth because he makes his right-back tired,” the Cameroon international told Four Four Two. “He doesn’t need to help me a lot so he can concentrate on attack. Even without speaking too much on the pitch we have a good understanding and I know when he wants the ball into feet or into the space.” The dynamic duo were in impressive form again on Sunday with Bale scoring twice in a 3-1 win over QPR.

Tottenham currently lie 5th in the table, a point ahead of Liverpool and three points ahead of Arsenal, with a game in hand over their rivals. After a grim start to the season, which saw heavy defeats against both Manchester’s United and City, Spurs are unbeaten since these losses, claiming the scalps of Liverpool and Arsenal in the process. They appear to be successfully juggling four competitions ahead of a reasonable run of games that includes a tough trip to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League but winnable league games against Fulham, Aston Villa, West Brom and Bolton. The imminent return of long term absentees William Gallas and Michael Dawson should provide an additional boost in defence, as fixtures continue to come thick and fast.

Redknapp has previously claimed that Benoit Assou-Ekotto can be “hard work”, but the claim was made in reference to his indifferent attitude to football in general as opposed to his actual performances, where his continued consistency remains unheralded.

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