Oliver Skipp believes the decision to stay at Tottenham last summer has been proved right and now he wants to do the same with Antonio Conte’s praise of him.
The 21-year-old academy product returned from a successful season at Norwich City, during which time he shone as an ever-present in the Canaries’ midfield and helped drive them to the Championship title and promotion back to the Premier League.
Following back-to-back man of the match performances for Spurs this week, Skipp has been reflecting on a season back at Tottenham that has brought 19 appearances for the club – 17 of them starts – following a decision in the summer to fight for his place at the club rather than head off on another loan to continue his development.
“I hope this proves that it was the right decision to stay and I feel I am ready to play for Spurs,” he said.
“You are never quite sure at the start of the season but it was a big confidence boost to start the first game of the season and it was something I was looking to build on and hopefully keep building on.
“I always wanted to fight for my place here and I am very grateful of the year I had last season at Norwich – but there are still a lot of improvements to be made.”
Conte told football.london on Thursday night that if Skipp continues to improve then it is in his hands to become a “top midfielder” in the game.
Skipp admits that his game has continued to grow this season with his exposure to regular Premier League football and that now he has to prove the Spurs boss right.
“It is always nice to hear that but I have to go out and prove it, otherwise it is just words and there is no point,” he said.
“I feel that there has definitely been a lot of improvement. I need to keep working and keep doing the things that I am doing and keep making those improvements. Hopefully that happens but I know that it is a lot of hard work before that does.”
The England U21 international has quickly won over the Spurs fanbase with his powerful presence on the pitch, winning the ball back for the north London side and springing them on the counter attack.
One tackle in the first half against Norwich on Sunday saw Skipp slide in at pace, win the ball and in the same sliding motion on the floor pass the ball behind him to a team-mate. He repeated the trick in the second half with a similar move and those challenge help get the fans going inside the stadium.
“I think that is the sort of thing that gets the crowd on side. I am very competitive so those sorts of tackles are not something I really think about much, but you can see we are progressing with our play against the ball,” he explained.
“Maybe not as much as we did on Thursday but there were definitely parts of the game where we got aggressive in their areas of the pitch. Every game is slightly different but by making adjustments Conte has built up a lot of players.”
Skipp believes that with every passing game the players are adjusting to what Conte wants from them all and the performances are subsequently improving.
“Yeah, I think so. It was always going to take a little bit of time to get used to his idea of football,” said the midfielder.
“Obviously coming in halfway through a season, we are getting there, but I still think there are a lot of things we could do better in our game, but slowly and surely we starting to put a few things together hopefully.”
Some have already suggested that if Skipp continues on his current trajectory that he could soon be stepping up from being a key player in the England U21 squad to joining some of his young international team-mates in Gareth Southgate’s senior squad.
“I am not getting carried away. I have played 10 or 15 games this season – 20 in all competitions,” he stated.
“There are a lot of things I need to be doing to be in that mix and I am just looking forward to keep pushing and pushing and seeing where it takes me. I have just got to keep doing what I am doing for the club and see what happens.”
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With the inconsistency of other teams around them and the growing belief within Tottenham, who now sit fifth with a game in hand over fourth-placed West Ham who have two points more than them, has the possibility of the north London outfit competing for a Champions League spot grown?
“I think so. We have just got to keep pushing,” said Skipp. “We are not getting carried away after a couple of good performances.
“There are lots of other games in this period which we need to make sure we get right. We are not looking that far ahead – we have just got to keep looking to the next game even if it is a cliche. That is all we can do – we cannot concentrate on other teams.”