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Exclusive: Milos Veljkovic – Sharing memories playing with Tottenham teammates Mason and Kane

The Werder Bremen defender spoke exclusively to The Boot Room about his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

Mathew Coull

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Milos Veljkovic
Photo: Getty Images

In the summer Tottenham Hotspur invested in two young central defenders. Juan Foyth arrived from Estudiantes in Argentina, whilst Davinson Sanchez became the club’s record signing from Ajax.

An incredibly daunting move for any young player to make, but imagine making the same move at the age of just 16. That was how Milos Veljkovic’s Tottenham Hotspur story started.

As just a 16-year-old boy, Veljkovic left his hometown club of Basel in Switzerland. The teenager made a bold move by heading to the Spurs academy to try and make a career for himself in England.

Speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Serbian international explained this month just how Tottenham helped him settle in:

“I have very good (memories),” said Veljkovic.

“My guest family in the first couple of years were really nice to me. The club also was really good to me. I started to play straight away, youth-team and reserves and also in the first-team a little bit.

“So I am quite happy to have had this experience.”

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Veljkovic was certainly keeping the right company to improve his game. The youngster was in a squad that contained a long list of future first-team players at White Hart Lane.

The likes of Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll were all in the reserve picture during Veljkovic’s stay at Spurs. Others, such as Ryan Fredericks, Massimo Luongo and Alex Pritchard – to name a few – went on to be successful elsewhere.

Of course, the biggest example is Harry Kane. The England international has since developed into one of Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorers, with 136 goals for Spurs and counting.

Such feats are no surprise to Veljkovic. The Serbian, speaking from Germany where he is now a starter with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, revealed how he was telling international team-mates just how talented the future Spurs and England phenomenon was:

“Well if you believe me or not I told a lot of players in the national team already, at a young age. As soon as I saw him, also Ryan Mason, also played with some other good players. Harry Kane, but also Ryan Mason, I thought he was also very good.

“But with Harry Kane I told the (Serbia) players ‘if he can’t become a top player Then I don’t know who can?’,” he claimed with a sheepish laugh.

“He scored a lot of goals, even in the reserves. Every game he would score three or four goals.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

What quickly becomes apparent is the high esteem in which Veljkovic holds his former team-mate Ryan Mason.

That was a popular trend amongst many of his former North London team-mates when he sadly retired in February.

The England international, who had joined Hull City in 2016, suffered a fractured skull in a collision with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in January 2017.

After 13 months of recuperation and testing, Mason was told to put his playing career behind him.

Veljkovic spoke incredibly warmly of Mason. The Englishman, four years his senior, clearly was something of a mentor to the youngster:

“I was very, very, very sad. He is a good friend of mine,” echoing the sentiments of so many in February.

“I played with (him) also in the reserves. He was an unbelievable player and also a very unbelievable person because he was very nice and very helpful to young players.

“He worked very hard to get into the first-team. Finally, he played and then it happened. So I was really sad to hear this news. But this is football, it is really, really unfortunate.”

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

But when it comes to a career as a coach, something that Tottenham have left the door open to, Veljkovic simply cares about his friend simply enjoying the little things in life:

“I think he has a lot of knowledge of football. But this is not the only important thing, to coach. I think he is still very young. So I don’t know it depends on him what he wants to do.”

Like Mason and so many other top Tottenham talents, Veljkovic could never cement a place in the Tottenham first-team for long enough to justify staying.

With his talent, playing regular first-team football was at the forefront of his mind. In 2016, and at a cut-price, he headed to Europe – joining Werder Bremen.

This path has also been trodden by a former Spurs team-mate. Six months after his Bremen switch, Nabil Bentaleb headed to Germany.

The Algerian international once looked like being a future first-team regular at Spurs, but opportunities dried up under Mauricio Pochettino.

After an initial loan spell, he made a permanent switch to Schalke 04 and Veljkovic believes his old pal is doing a grand job in Gelsenkirchen:

“I was really excited to see him come to Germany and he started really well and played all the games,” commented Veljkovic.

“I like his game. He is a good friend of mine.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“He had a little bit of difficulty, which is normal. Every player has some periods where they don’t play. Now he plays again and I am really happy to see him do well because we came nearly at the same time at Tottenham and we were really good friends.”

Veljkovic never quite got the opportunities his talent perhaps warranted at Spurs.

However, much like Mason, Bentaleb and so many others, it is clear how much working in the Tottenham youth set-up helped prepare him for life in the footballing world.

Werder Bremen are now reaping the benefits of that work, and Veljkovic will clearly remain grateful to Spurs for his experience at the club.

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Everton

Heurelho Gomes would be perfect back-up for Everton under Marco Silva

The Brazilian veteran would be a great option for Everton.

Mathew Coull

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Everton certainly do not need a new first-team goalkeeper. The Toffees have an excellent young stopper in Jordan Pickford who, in the long-term, has the potential to be a star for both club and country. This summer it appears he will be the number one goalie for England at the World Cup in Russia.

However, Everton may need to bring in a new stopper to back him up. Joel Robles is out of contract this summer and Maarten Stekelenburg continues to suffer from a long-term hip problem.

Everton, who are also after a new boss, are therefore likely to bring in a new face this summer. Well, if they make the managerial choice they clearly desire, the best option for back-up ‘keeper becomes clear.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The Toffees want former Watford boss Marco Silva to become the new boss at Goodison Park. His appointment would surely see a move for veteran Hornets stopper Heurelho Gomes become a possibility.

The 37-year-old has established himself as a top keeper in English football at Vicarage Road. After a mixed spell at Tottenham Hotspur, he has been fantastic for Watford for the past four years.

The 11-cap Brazilian international might be on his way this summer. Javi Gracia, Silva’s replacement at the club, was clearly not his biggest fan and dropped him for Greek international Orestis Karnezis.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Therefore, if Silva does get the Everton job, bringing Gomes to Goodison would appear something of a no-brainer.

With years of experience in the English game, he would be a brilliant back-up and mentor to young stopper Pickford. When called upon, Everton would be able to relax in the knowledge that the still talented shot-stopper was coming off the bench to do his duties.

The 37-year-old could be a cheap and shrewd piece of recruitment from Everton this summer.

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Derby County

Newcastle United should take advantage of Matej Vydra’s low asking fee

The Czech international has scored 20 goals in the Championship this season.

Josh Kerr

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Matej Vydra
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United ensuring another season of Premier League football represents one of Rafael Benitez’ most impressive achievements in football to date.

The job done by the Spaniard is all the more admirable considering the Magpies striker options have been thin for large periods of the season, and the arrival of a goal-scorer is surely imminent for the Tyneside club.

According to The Telegraph, Derby County are likely to list their top-scorer Matej Vydra for sale after their failure to earn promotion to the Premier League.

This comes as massive news to a number of clubs in England’s top-flight, and Newcastle should be one of the front-runners queuing for the 26-year-old’s prolific services.

The Czech Republic international has been excellent this season firing 20 goals in 35 appearances for the Rams.

Reports suggest the club may be forced to sell their star striker in order to reduce the club’s £35 million wage bill ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old’s sale this summer will be Derby’s attempts to slash their budgets and form a strategy that is going to enable the club to push for promotion once again next season.

A fee of around £8 million could prove a major boost for Newcastle, considering the club’s financial restraints, and a 20-goal striker would surely be an improvement on Benitez’s current front-line options.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Islam Slimani’s loan move from Leicester proved to be a disaster, and the arrival of Joselu was one of the most disappointing transfers of the season.

The club are in desperate need of a goalscorer, with Perez leading the club’s individual efforts, despite being a number 10 and not an out-and-out goalscorer.

Vydra also has rare Premier League experience with West Bromwich Albion, as well as Watford, and his graft in the Championship may mean he’s ready for a return back to the top-flight.

The former West Brom striker guarantees goals and if there is one thing Tyneside supporters have missed in recent years, it is a goal-scoring hero.

At a little over £8 million, he could still prove a real bargain and a relatively insignificant risk.

Benitez has been wanting to break the bank since his arrival in 2016 but may be tempted do a deal on the cheap for the highly-rated striker.

Newcastle will be looking to improve on their impressive 10th place finish next season and the firepower of a genuine goalscorer could see them surpass the highs of this campaign.

Vydra offers pace and is even an aerial threat at just 5ft 2, so it has to be a priority for Newcastle to capture one of the bargains of the season and bring Vydra to St James’ Park.

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Everton

How Sam Allardyce’s failure to prove preconceptions wrong resulted in Everton exit

The 63-year-old was relieved from his duties at Goodison Park last week.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Sam Allardyce was sacked by Everton earlier this week, bringing an end to his brief and somewhat controversial six-month reign at Goodison Park.

On paper, the 63-year-old has fulfilled the remit that he was given when he accepted the role in November.

Poor early-season form had left the Toffees with genuine fears of being drawn into a relegation battle and Allardyce successfully guided the team away from trouble and to a respectable top-half finish in the Premier League.

However, his dismissal came as little surprise and the reality was that the former England manager was nothing more than a short-term solution to Everton’s immediate problems.

Allardyce has a reputation for being a survival specialist who utilises a pragmatic, rigid style of football to grind out results.

This was highlighted during his recent spells with Sunderland and Crystal Palace where his philosophy and methods were able to produce enough results to pull both clubs out of the relegation zone and to safety.

However, his style of play is a means to an end. There is little aesthetic appeal and supporters only tend to tolerate it if their club is desperate for points or it is facilitating significant success on the pitch.

The decision of the Everton hierarchy to appoint Allardyce was logical and made business sense.

In short, the 63-year-old would guarantee that the Toffees retained their Premier League status, allowing the club to rebuild in the summer.

The question was, could Allardyce prove that the preconceptions about him being a nothing more than a survival specialist and only being able to produce a pragmatic style of football as false?

If so, then maybe there was a long-term role for him to play at the club.

Ultimately, the 63-year-old was only successful in cementing those preconceptions.

It has been a miserable six months for Everton supporters and there has been little for them to cheer over the cause of what has been a chaotic and disappointing season.

Allardyce’s reign was characterised by some positive results that came courtesy of a dire, pragmatic and, at times, just downright negative style of football.

Yes, Allardyce inherited an imbalanced squad, but the notion that the club was destined for relegation is completely false.

When he was appointed Everton were five points clear of the relegation zone and David Unsworth has just secured a 4-0 victory against West Ham in his final game as caretaker manager.

A seven-game unbeaten start to the 63-year-old’s tenure at Goodison Park effectively meant that The Toffees were well clear of trouble by the turn of the year.

There was no need to grind out results anymore – it was time to build to the future and give the supporters something to look forward to.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

However, Allardyce made no attempt to take off the shackles and the pragmatic style remained unaltered.

In the end, Everton supporters, and ultimately the club hierarchy, were left frustrated and struggled to buy into a future where Allardyce led the rebuilding process at Goodison Park.

There was no surprise to see the club opt to move in a different direction.

For Allardyce, his spell at Everton has only helped to reaffirm the perception that his role will always be that of a survival specialist and that his style of football simply does not suit progressive clubs looking to establish themselves in the top half of the Premier League.

His approach is begrudgingly accepted when results are the priority but is cast aside when entertainment and progress comes to the fore.

Everton and Allardyce were always a mismatch – now it is time for both to find more appropriate appointments.

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