Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen happy to shake off ankle injury to continue his best ever season

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (left) and Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen battle for the ball

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (left) and Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium (pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images). - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Belgian has started 36 of the club’s 37 matches in the Premier League and is proud of Spurs’ achievements this season

Jan Vertonghen believes he has had his best ever season after playing with an ankle injury against Newcastle United to ensure Tottenham Hotspur returned to the Champions League.

The Belgian limped off in the 85th minute at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, shortly before the Baggies grabbed their winning goal.

While he quickly returned to training, he aggravated the problem on Tuesday and was still unsure whether he would be able to play when he arrived at Wembley for last night’s fixture against Rafael Benitez’s Magpies.

But Vertonghen, who was named in the PFA Team of the Year, started his 36th Premier League match of the season and helped to keep Newcastle at bay as Spurs triumphed 1-0 to secure a top-four finish with a match to spare.

“It was a tough one because I took a knock on Saturday against West Brom and I turned it again on Tuesday, so it was close but I was able to play,” said Vertonghen.

“I wanted to play anyway. We had a little chat during the warm-up, how it felt, and it was ok - good enough to play.

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“It’s definitely the most consistent season I’ve had. I’ve worked a lot on my physical abilities.

“The quality was always there but this is the first actual season – hopefully, touch wood - that I’ve been able to play almost every game, apart from Palace away, when I had a knock the day before the game.

“We do a lot of pre-activation things and take everything very seriously, and I looked at everything and took care of my body a bit more. I’ve always looked after my food and everything. It was more [what I was doing] inside of training.

“I’m very happy, I’ve been very consistent and I think it’s my best season.”

Vertonghen turned 31 in April but believes he can continue to be a force in the Premier League, having discussed the ageing process with veteran Italian centre-back Giorgio Chiellini in March.

“After the Juventus game I was at the drug testing with him and he said his body was not in the same state any more,” said Vertonghen. “But he picks his games and he’s always there.

“I think you have to be a bit more professional and experienced in the way you play your games, sometimes avoid some big tackles and rely on your experience. He definitely does that.

“I wasn’t really in the mood but I sat there with him and he started speaking a bit about mentality and all these things. But I think Tottenham is in a very good place.”

Tottenham’s mentality was being questioned in the first half of last night’s match against Newcastle.

Needing a win to guarantee they would go into the final day of the season ahead of Chelsea, sitting in the top four places with their fate in their own hands, Spurs looked nervy and the more vulnerable team – especially when Jonjo Shelvey hit the post with a free kick.

But the Lilywhites were instantly better after half-time, and Harry Kane struck in the 50th minute.

Vertonghen says the news that fifth-placed Chelsea were losing at home to Huddersfield – the Blues eventually drew the match 1-1 to fall four points behind Tottenham – lifted the players during the interval.

“At half-time I think we were happy it was 0-0,” said the Belgian. “Harry had a big chance but apart from that Newcastle had a couple of good ones.

“It was ‘ok, it’s still 0-0, one goal is enough’ and then we heard about Chelsea being down 1-0 and I think we took some energy from that, and the second half was a lot better - not as dominant as we usually play, but more control.

“I don’t even know who I heard it from but we took energy from that because we knew if we had a better result than Chelsea then it was a good day for us.

“We’re definitely very happy with the result. You could see it on the pitch after the final whistle.

“Getting into the Champions League again after a tough, physical year playing away from home is a great achievement. It’s just been very tough and I think we can be very proud of it. The relief was there in the dressing room.

“Are we still making progress as a club? Definitely. Maybe you didn’t really see it in the league this season because we were that good at White Hart Lane last season, but I think you can see it especially in the Champions League - we’ve grown there.

“After last season, when we struggled against Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, this year we’ve done very well. I think we deserved to go through against Juventus but we take that experience into next year.”

Vertonghen added: “You always ask me whether we need to win a trophy, and I always say you need to win one trophy to win a lot more. I just think we need our first one and the rest will follow.

“We’re going for that. We’re happy with the way our season went now and we want to improve next season. Where we are now, I think we can be proud of ourselves.

“These days Manchester City get the credit, Liverpool get the credit. They all deserve it and we’re a bit in their shadows at the moment, but that’s fine.

“We deserve the credit when we do well. We’ve had a lot of praise after the last couple of years and I think we deserve it.”

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