It wasn't all smiles and fancy handshakes at the start of Son's Tottenham career. Alex Milne takes a look at a player currently enjoying his best form at the club.
“After the Olympic Games his idea was to leave to go to Germany. In his mind, he would like to move but in the end he accepted the decision to stay and fight for his position.”
Those the words of Mauricio Pochettino, confirming just how close Son was to moving on from Tottenham a couple of years ago in a quest for first-team football after his disappointing first season at the club.
Lilywhites fans will now no doubt be grateful that Poch convinced the player, who could end up being one of our most popular forward players of recent years, to stay.
Being honest I, and I doubt many other fellow fans, would have shed too many tears had Son left after his first season. Having joined for a then-relatively expensive fee of £22M in the summer of 2015, Son showed only very occasional flashes of brilliance in his first season, scoring only four Premier League goals and never really having a sustained period in the starting eleven.
The South Korean could easily have gone the same way as the likes of Kevin Prince Boateng, Adel Taraabt or Clinton N’Jie – young players who you could see possessed natural talent, but for one reason or another just didn’t quite cut it at the club.
I doubt many other fellow fans would have shed too many tears had Son left after his first season
Who knows whether Son staying at the club after his first year was genuinely what he and Poch wanted or not. Maybe a fee simply couldn’t be agreed with another club, or perhaps failing to bring in other targets was the only reason he remained at Spurs. Either way, it turned out to be an inspired (or very lucky) move.
Son improved hugely in every aspect in the 2016-2017 season, more than tripling his tally of the previous year with 14 goals in the league which included some stunners against the likes of Middlesbrough, Swansea and Stoke, as well as a hugely satisfying hat trick in the FA Cup v Millwall.
Yet even at the start of this campaign Son wasn’t guaranteed a first-team place. He only started one of our opening four league games, and it wasn’t really until Toby Alderweireld was injured v Real Madrid that Son has been regularly starting. It is fair to say that since then, however, he has been something of a sensation, and his record of scoring in five home league games in a row is testament to his hard work in improving and patience in waiting for his opportunity.
I would argue that Son is the most popular goalscorer in the whole squad amongst fans. Kane finds the net on such a regular basis that fans have almost become blasé about it, while Alli and Eriksen are arguably more surly characters. There is something immediately likeable about Son, and he is a rarity in the modern game in being a player who genuinely looks like he loves every minute he is out on the pitch.
For me, one of the greatest joys of watching games recently has been seeing our number 7 setting off on another pacy run down the left wing, his long legs galloping over the turf like a gazelle, before seeing the net bulge and that huge Cheshire cat smile lighting up Wembley.
There is something immediately likeable about Son, a player who genuinely looks like he loves every minute he is out on the pitch
I have rarely seen a player so direct – his one thought when getting into the opposition half is simply to run straight at defences, and it must be terrifying to play against.
Son’s presence also now attracts an army of Korean fans on match day, and while some may understandably have their reservations about the day-trippers that playing at Wembley has inevitably brought with it, I have found it genuinely heart-warming to witness groups of Korean fans wildly cheering a Sonny goal.
Pochettino will certainly have a selection headache when Alderweireld returns to training in February. The Belgian colossus is certain to return to the first-team (he is just too good not to), but surely Son has been far too good to drop, in which case who makes way if we switch back to a 3-4-3 formation?
That is a discussion for another day. For now, though, let us bask in the glory of Son’s wonderful current form, but also reflect about how it could have all been so different had events turned out different in the summer of 2016. Funny old game, innit?