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IIt’s not easy to explain, it may not bear forensic examination, but sometimes it seems right, the possibilities are so tantalizing that they outweigh everything. And so James Maddison signed for Tottenham in June; the showman midfielder, full of mischief and expression, at a club where a player of his ilk is practically a constitutional requirement.

“That kind of vision was one of the reasons I wanted to go,” Maddison said as he prepares with England for Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine in Poland and next Tuesday’s friendly against Scotland in Glasgow. “I saw myself playing for Tottenham. I’m not even 100% sure what I mean by that, so don’t ask me! But I saw myself in this team, in this jersey, in this stadium. It suited me well. And they’ve always had that type of player.

“My dad’s favorite player when I was a kid was Gazza. That kind of midfielder who wants to be creative, entertain the fans and be a personality. Christian Eriksen for the past few years, but since him they probably haven’t had that type of player. I do not put myself on the same level but I am in this category.

Maddison has had a spectacular start, two goals and two assists in four Premier League appearances, with Spurs sitting second on 10 points. He showed no hesitation in taking over Harry Kane’s No.10 shirt after the England captain’s transfer to Bayern Munich and it was love at first sight in the eyes of the fans – as it always was going to be.

Maddison is now hoping to launch his career in England against Ukraine and Scotland, having won only three caps so far, his confidence at an all-time high, although it’s more of a state of mind at home than any passing nudge.

Aged 26, Maddison is too young to remember Paul Gascoigne. But Maddison’s father, Gary, a graphic designer, assembled for fun video montages in which the maestro figured in large part. Maddison looked at them and saw them again. Gary also has a YouTube channel – Gazmaddy – where he has uploaded videos of his son’s football journey.

“Before turning pro, you were a fan of the game and I liked players who had personality, who had a bit of sass,” Maddison explains. “Gazza was a perfect example.

“For example, something stupid. I remember a clip where the cameras are rolling the national anthem and it happens to him and he sticks his tongue out and starts playing with the camera and getting cloudy eyes. I love that. That’s why I love interacting with fans. I don’t know if you’ve seen the clip of me with the Bournemouth fans…”

The showman must go on: Maddison finally wants to score England |  England
James Maddison wins the ball against Malta, one of his three England caps to date. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Maddison is referring to the one from the penultimate Saturday when he goes for a corner at Vitality Stadium and is serenaded with: “Southgate is right, you are fucking shit.” Maddison deliberately spots the ball outside the quadrant to bring it up before putting it back with a big smile.

“It’s just little things like these that I like to do that keep me hungry,” Maddison says. “I love the theatrical element of almost being the villain. That’s why I liked watching football and that’s why I like playing it.

“I’m not trying to be the showman, that’s just how I am as a person. I’m going to dinner with my family… I like being the main man, you know.

Maddison explains how perfectly aligned he is with new Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou, who wants him to play with freedom and courage as a left-footed, hard-pressing, always forward-facing number 8. It was music to his ears.

The established narrative regarding his relationship with Gareth Southgate, who used him on the left wing, is different. Maddison has heard it for years. He made his England debut in 2019 and was pretty much in the cold until his inclusion in the 2022 World Cup squad when, frustratingly, he was unable to play due to a chest injury. knee.

Southgate neglected him for so long, people told Maddison, because he didn’t like him. Perhaps that was partly due to Maddison’s outgoing nature, her love of nights out. But as with Southgate, Maddison continues to challenge those perceptions.

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“Gareth gave me a huge compliment as we left the World Cup,” Maddison said. “He said he knew it had been difficult with the injury and not featuring, but he was really impressed with the way I performed in the squad. It stuck with me.

The showman must go on: Maddison finally wants to score England |  England
James Maddison celebrates after opening the scoring for Spurs at Bournemouth last month. Photography: Luke Walker/Getty Images

“Has Gareth ever had a problem with me? I never thought that once, to be honest. There was a time when I wasn’t playing well enough. And then you have to work hard to come back because Gareth is a very loyal man, he trusts his players and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes it’s harder for people to break in than to get out, if you know what I mean.

“Look, it’s important that you also have a social life.” I’m not going to sit in my room and go to bed at 8 p.m. I am a social guy. I like to go out. You need this stimulus in your life, a good balance. We are all professional athletes. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are quickly found out.”

Now on to Ukraine and now joining Kane, as Maddison had hoped to do at Spurs, although he wasn’t as ‘naive’ as he says he was to think the striker wouldn’t go. at Bayern. As Maddison played throughout pre-season in the No.71 shirt, there was even a conspiracy theory that he and Spurs knew Kane would leave No.10.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting the No. 10 shirt,” Maddison says. “I didn’t want it to become free because it meant one thing. New signings were given pre-season numbers (in the 70s) and then, when the time comes, because there are ins and outs, and the club has to sell shirts…

“I didn’t want Harry to leave, but when he did and number 10 came free and the club asked me to, then of course I wanted to wear it. That’s my favorite number, I tattooed it on me. I was never going to say no.

“I knew there was a chance Harry could leave, but it wasn’t all bad. There was a very good atmosphere with the arrival of the new manager and new players, and I didn’t feel any hangover from the previous managers. There were connotations around more negative and defensive football (before Postecoglou) and I didn’t feel any hangover from it. Everyone was on a new table. Since my arrival until now, everything has gone really well.