Dele Alli: Mauricio Pochettino knows 'I'm not going to change' my fiery side
LONDON -- Dele Alli has said he will never change, and says he has the full backing of his Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino to keep the win-at-all-costs side of his game.
Alli, 20, received a straight red card for a dangerous high tackle in Tottenham's Europa League draw with Gent at Wembley, which eliminated them from Europe.
That was the first sending off of his career but followed a number of near misses last season, including a punch on West Brom's Claudio Yacob that resulted in a three-match retrospective ban.
He has responded in the best way possible, scoring in each of Spurs' four matches since and, after winning and converting a penalty in Sunday's 2-1 win over Southampton, he said he will never calm down completely.
"I think I've definitely calmed down a bit but it is important -- I'm never going to take that out of my game. I'm never going to say sorry for wanting to win or trying as hard as I can but things happen and you have to learn from them. I always want to win," Alli told reporters at White Hart Lane.
"He [Pochettino] knows that's who I am. He knows I'm not going to change no matter what. We've had a few talks and he's been very supportive so it's nice to have a manager that backs you like he does. I'm still young, I'm 20 years old, there will always be lots of up and downs in football that's the way it is. But when things don't go my way I've just got to try to learn from them and keep improving.
"There are so many things to learn from this season for me. Everyone makes mistakes it's important I bounced back. I felt horrible after that, but it was important I put it behind me and learned from it."
Alli scored a spot-kick to make in 14 league goals this season, and 17 in all competitions, and after the game Pochettino said he "looks like a striker."
The former MK Dons player, however, insists he remains a midfielder, despite operating just behind the lone centre-forward in Spurs' current 3-4-2-1 formation.
"No, I enjoy playing in the No. 10," Alli said, when asked if he was a striker now. "But I'm happy to play anywhere in this team. If the manager wants to push me a bit higher in some games I'm happy to do that but I am a midfielder. I enjoy playing everywhere.
"I'm happy to help the team. We're a hard working team and that's a big thing for this manager; that you work hard off the ball. I'm happy to defend and attack as well, I don't mind doing anything for this team."
It is particularly important that Alli continues his form in front of goal for club and country in the next month or so, while Spurs' leading scorer Harry Kane is sidelined with ankle ligament damage.
"I think all the boys feel extra responsibility," he said. "H is a fantastic striker who can get a goal from nothing. As soon as he got injured we knew it was important we all stepped up and chipped in with the goals. He'll keep supporting us from off the pitch and we'll just keep trying to carry on and get the points."
Spurs started quickly again against Southampton, Christian Eriksen opening the scoring after 13 minutes before Alli's penalty. Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, Alli's latest England teammates, combined for the latter to pull a goal back just after half-time.
"I think last season sometimes we fell behind and even at he start of this season we sometimes started slow," Alli said.
"The manager drilled it into us we do need to start strong and get ourselves in a good position to carry the game out. It was good to go 2-0 up but anything can happen at 2-0 so after they scored it was important we saw the game out.
"They [Redmond and Ward-Prowse] are two really good players and I'm looking forward to playing with them [for England]," he added.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.