Niko Kranjcar lifts the lid on his frustration at Tottenham: the full interview
Niko Kranjcar speaks out about his wasted year at Tottenham, the reasons he didn’t leave in January, the only club he feels a connection to and the importance of supporting his team-mates in spite of his ongoing frustration.
HAVING emerged from the depressingly familiar bench in the 78th minute on Saturday, Niko Kranjcar unleashed months of frustration in injury-time, lashing the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the top corner to earn a late, late win over Bolton.
The ball also fell to the Croatian at the final whistle and his emotions boiled over again as he punted the ball into the upper tier and strode down the tunnel, pushing his way through a throng of delirious team-mates.
It has been a difficult time for the 26-year-old, who was making just his sixth Premier League appearance of the season.
But, emerging from the dressing room, he agreed to speak to a group of newspaper journalists, and admit his frustration as the prime time of his career continues to be wasted at White Hart Lane. Here we bring you the full interview.
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Q. Was there a lot of frustration in that goal?
A. “Of course, I haven’t been playing for a whole year almost now, but you enjoy every moment on the pitch, and obviously getting the points for the lads. It’s a great moment. Of course there’s always frustration, we all want to play - every game, every minute of the day - but the most important thing is that we got the three points and we’re still in the mix to get into the Champions League next year as well.”
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Did you see the Arsenal score flash up just before you scored?
“I didn’t, no. Maybe the fans did. We don’t think about other results, and I didn’t score because Arsenal went 4-4, that’s for sure.”
Is this season one of the most frustrating in your career so far?
“Of course. I went away for internationals and scored five goals in three games [for Croatia] so obviously you feel that you’re probably playing the best football in your life, but you don’t get your chances. I mean, fair play, we’ve got such a great squad and such unbelievable talent in the squad that it’s hard to play everyone. You have to stay fit, you have to keep on trying and not let your head go, and wait for the chances that you’re going to get, which luckily I got.”
Harry Redknapp said recently that you’ve spoken to him about your situation…?
“I’m like every other footballer in the world. I’m not happy to just collect my money and come to training. I want to play football. I’m 26 years old and I did everything in my life to become a professional footballer, not to sit on the bench and cheer my friends on. I’m sorry to say it’s a hard time but like I said we’ve got so many great players here and everyone thinks the same. But I want to play football, especially because I feel that I’m in my best footballing years, and so I spoke to him [the manager] about it and I think he understood that.”
He really does like you…
“Yes I see that.”
Does he keep telling you that?
“No no, he tells you that [the media].”
How do you keep your head up? Who do you talk to?
“Luckily I’m from a footballing family so obviously I have great support from my wife and from everyone back home, especially my dad of course. He brought me into football, I grew up breathing football. It’s one of those moments. There’s nothing I can do except train hard and wait for a change – either a change in fortune or a change in teams. And at the end of the day I play football for myself because I enjoy it and I love it, and I want to achieve the most I can for myself, not because of other people.”
Why did you stay at Tottenham in January?
“I think that I didn’t get the opportunity that I was waiting for, and my wife is pregnant. She’s one month away from giving birth - it’s our first child. I don’t think in January that I have to be too desperate to leave. But obviously if the minutes don’t come and the situation stays the same then we’ll see what will happen. But for now I decided that it’s better to stay here, obviously for family reasons as well – and because I didn’t have offers that will take me anyway.”
Do you feel a great affinity with Spurs?
“There’s only one club I feel a connection to and that’s my home-town club. I’ve felt great since I came here, at Portsmouth as well – all the love from the fans and all the people around the club. You feel it, you feel it in your heart, but there will always only be one football club for me and that’s Dinamo Zagreb. Everything else… You have to feel comfortable and obviously I’m happy to be part of this great set-up and this great club, which has a great history. I’m happy to be part of it but at the end of the day you want to play football, it doesn’t matter where.”
You’ve staked a great claim for yourself with an important goal, haven’t you?
“Listen I don’t think that five minutes and my goal is going to change my position. No, it’s what you do throughout a season. I’d be a fool standing here saying that because I scored the winner I deserve to play now. It’s football, the gaffer has his choices. He’s the one who picks the team and he’s the one who’s responsible for the results. I never question him, why I’m not playing or why I shouldn’t be playing. Of course every one of us thinks we’re the best in the world, probably, but he’s the one who takes the decisions. Obviously here I suppose it’s a really difficult one because of the squad that we have, and it’s probably the hardest for him. But being a professional footballer and coming from a professional football family, I know there’s nothing else to do but work hard in training and keep your head up as high as you can and wait for other opportunities – may they come here or somewhere else.”
You could be back on the bench next weekend then…
“I’m used to it this season, it won’t be a shock to me. But the players that have played, they’ve done unbelievable, to be where we are now, and what we achieved last season and this season. That’s something we want to keep on doing as we go forward, and I think a lot of the reason for that is the way we handle ourselves when we’re unhappy. You don’t see one of us moaning. We stick to the lads and help them to achieve better things. We train hard, work hard and I think that’s why we’ve had the results that we’ve had. There’s a really good team spirit, you can see that. There’s no incidents, and having such a big squad of talented international players, it speaks volumes about the characters that we have in the dressing room.”