Next step in Joe Rodon’s rise is to keep Tottenham title charge on track after Toby Alderweireld injury

Dan Kilpatrick
·5-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

An injury to Toby Alderweireld threatens to undo Tottenham's newfound defensive resolve ahead of a decisive run of games but the Belgian's absence has opened the door for Joe Rodon.

Alderweireld is expected to be sidelined for up to a month, ruling him out of Sunday's visit to Chelsea, the derby against Arsenal and, possibly, the trip to Liverpool in mid-December.

Rodon is in contention to make his full Spurs debut at Stamford Bridge, with Davinson Sanchez short of confidence and Jose Mourinho unsure about playing Japhet Tanganga at centre-half.

"I think he is ready to play," the Spurs manager said of Rodon on Wednesday. "Of course he has not started a match in the Premier League but the Championship is now a high level competition."

Rodon attracted interest from across the top-flight before joining Spurs from Swansea last month and he was so highly-regarded in South Wales, the Championship outfit were considering blocking a move to anywhere but one of the Premier League's top clubs.

In the end, Spurs were the only ones in the running but still secured a bargain with a deal worth £15million.

Rodon, who is ineligible in the Europa League after signing too late, has been restricted to brief cameos against Burnley and Man City but his new teammates have been struck by his work-ethic in training.

"He's very humble, very hard-working," said Eric Dier, Rodon's likely defensive partner if he starts against Chelsea.

"From what I can see, he has a fantastic mentality to want to improve."

Getty Images
Getty Images

Dier's assessment of the 23-year-old is shared by the coaches who oversaw Rodon's rise through Swansea's academy, where he began as a nine-year-old after being spotted playing for local club Llangyfelach.

"He's got an excellent work ethic," said Nigel Rees, Swansea's academy manager who has known Rodon since he was a boy.

"That's something you can't put into a player. You can give them everything but they've got to have that work ethic.

"He was always asking questions, very inquisitive. Always stood out. Always wore his heart on his sleeve.

"Sometimes he was his own worst enemy because he always took everything to heart so much. But he's matured now into a different player altogether."

Rodon was raised in Morriston, just north of Swansea, in a Swans-supporting family and he hails from impressive sporting stock.

His grandfather Peter played for Bradford, his uncle Chris for Brighton and his father, Keri, represented Wales at basketball.

“Players from that background understand what it takes," said Rees.

Cameron Toshack, who coached Rodon in Swansea's U18s and U23s, remembers a young player who was always striving to improve.

"He's very demanding of himself and of those around him," said Toshack, the son of former Wales manager, John.

"He seeks detail to improve. He's not one who just turns up and goes through the motions. He demanded detail around what physically and mentally he needed to do. He was very mature for a young football player.

"The one thing that struck me very early on was he was very hard on himself, which obviously is a positive if it doesn't tip over. He always wanted to get the best out of himself."

Neither Rees nor Toshack are surprised at Rodon's success and both are confident he will not sink if he is thrown in at the deep end on Sunday.

At 17, he was already playing for Swansea's U-23s and Toshack remembers sending Rodon and Dan James, now at Manchester United, to spend a week with Chris Coleman's senior Wales squad as teenagers before they had even made their club debuts.

"As a defender himself, Chris was glowing with praise about Joe," Toshack said.

After making the breakthrough at Swansea just over two years ago, Rodon caught the eye for his towering presence in both boxes and an ability to bring the ball out from the back. Growing up, he idolised Ashley Williams but he is so comfortable in possession, Toshack compares him to John Stones.

Mourinho had no truck with Juan Foyth, an impressive ball-playing defender who often appeared too lightweight for English football, but Rodon has the brawn to suit his new manager after extra hours spent with Swansea's strength and conditioning coach, Sam Huggins, while in the academy.

"You can see how much work he's put in when you look at his physical abilities, his athleticism," said Rees. "From where he was when he started to where he is now, is a remarkable change. But he's a really good footballer Joe, we mustn't forget that. He's a proper ball playing centre-half."

Rodon has been helped to settle at Spurs by compatriots Ben Davies and Gareth Bale and he is part of an exciting generation of Welsh players who will lead the country at next summer's European Championship.

For Rees, watching Rodon, James and Oli McBurnie, another Swansea graduate, in the Premier League is evocative and he expects the Spurs defender to accept an invitation to return to the club and address the academy players soon.

"For me, it's important they come back and explain to the young players what their journey looked like, that it wasn't always honey and roses," Rees said.

"It was hard graft. But look where they are now."

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