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Kieran Trippier might hate tapas… but Spanish influence is already rubbing off


There has been a Spanish inquisition in the England camp ever since Kieran Trippier decided to leave Tottenham for Madrid.

Just over 12 months ago Tripper had returned from Russia with love as one of the new superstars of English football.

He had a significant role in helping the Three Lions reach the World Cup semi-finals and scored the opening goal against Croatia in Moscow with a sublime free kick as Gareth Southgate’s men threatened to achieve the unthinkable and reach the final.

He went back to Spurs looking to push on. But all he started to feel was pushed out.

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Kieran Trippier impressed… and bore the hallmarks of Diego Simeone’s coaching

So much so that when Southgate’s men made it to another semi-final, this time in the Nations League, Trippier wasn’t even in the squad, let alone the starting XI.

While the Three Lions toiled in Portugal, Tripper was sat on a beach wishing he was somewhere else, feeling unwanted for both club and country.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino wanted him out, but then the call came from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and the lifeline he’d been hoping for.

He packed his bags in a shot and has never looked back, absorbing himself in the new language and culture of the Spanish capital to make an immediate impact on his new team-mates.

Trippier, 28, excelled in the punishing pre-season training regimes of Atletico fitness coach Oscar Ortega, earning the nickname ‘The Beast’ due to his remarkable levels of stamina and endurance. In hindsight, Pochettino did Trippier a huge favour.

Even those who make it to the top need a kick up the backside from time to time.

But Tripper should be applauded for being willing to accept the challenge of moving abroad with a young family, becoming the only Englishman to currently ply his trade in La Liga – and his rewards are now coming.

He has been involved in every minute of Atletico’s first three games of the new season and while Pochettino lost faith in him, Southgate didn’t.

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Kieran Trippier joined Atletico Madrid from Spurs this summer

It is a measure of Southgate’s man-management skills that he was willing to go watch him in action a fortnight ago, reminding him he hadn’t been forgotten.

It is also a measure of the trust Southgate has in him that he picked Tripper ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold for last night’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria.

Few feel more proud than Tripper to represent the Three Lions.

Perhaps his dad Chris might be the exception? He plants the flag of St George in the garden of his Bury home whenever England are competing in a major tournament.

When Tripper drove through the gates of St George’s Park last week to rejoin Southgate’s set-up, he felt a shiver of excitement flow down his spine.

Which might explain the reason Tripper resembled a kid in a sweet shop here at Wembley, back in his natural habitat and loving it, despite the drop in temperature.

He was so pumped up he rugby tackled Kristiyan Malinov inside the opening 10 minutes to stop the Bulgarians from hitting England on the break. It was crude. But it was also ruthless and streetwise.

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Diego Simeone has worked his magic on Kieran Trippier already

The influence of Atletico boss Diego Someone hasn’t taken long to infiltrate Trippier’s thinking.

Trippier was like a jack-in-the-box, hurtling up and down the right flank offering Raheem Sterling support with some intelligent runs that went wasted.

He took on some instructions from Southgate on the touchline before half time and clapped and encouraged Jordan Henderson when the Liverpool captain failed to find him with a misplaced pass, almost like he was apologising for not having charged into the space ahead.

Trippier then picked out Harry Kane with one of his trademark crosses, but his captain failed to generate enough power with his headed effort.

For years players despised, dreaded and disrespected representing the Three Lions, but Tripper is the opposite.

He embraces it in a fashion that suggests he never wants the experience to end.

He feared it had, not least because Southgate has more right sided defenders than he knows what to do with in the shape of Tripper, Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Trippier doesn’t even like sharing his food (he hates Tapas), let alone his place in the national team, but with a new lease of life like this one he might not have to.



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