“I’m resident wicketkeeper,” laughs Eric Dier, after being spotted donning goalkeeping gloves during Tottenham’s training ground cricket matches.
Clips of those Hotspur Way knockabouts reflect the general feel-good atmosphere at a club who sit top of the Premier League table heading into Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal.
Not that Dier is getting carried away.
“It’s always nice to be first but obviously it doesn’t really mean much right now – what matters is in May,” he tells BBC Sport.
The England international is, however, an integral part of the division’s most frugal defence, with Jose Mourinho’s side boasting four clean sheets in their past five league games since conceding three goals in the final eight minutes to draw with West Ham in October.
“We were disappointed with how things happened and we spoke about that as a group afterwards,” says Dier. “We knew we needed to do better.
“It is really a team thing to be able to defend well. It’s because of 11 players all doing their part in whatever way is necessary.
“There has been a fantastic feeling in that sense, where everyone is willing to go that extra mile for each other and that’s really important.”
Spurs have conceded nine goals in 10 league games this season, three of which were penalties, despite having little time to work together on the training ground.
“We’ve barely been able to train because of the schedule – a lot of meetings,” adds Dier. “I feel like all season we have been defending very well.
“Southampton and Brighton were the only goals we conceded from open play, the rest were all from set-pieces or a second phase after a set-piece.
“That was really disappointing. That’s what we needed to address, and we did.”
Spurs currently sit above Liverpool on goal difference, although Chelsea and Leicester City both play earlier in the weekend and could move ahead of them.
‘Mourinho is very authentic, he never changes’
Dier, who spent large spells of the Mauricio Pochettino era in a holding midfield role, says he now feels “most comfortable and most confident” at centre-back, having worked hard to regain full fitness following appendix surgery in December 2018.
Pochettino’s exit and the three-month suspension of football in March meant a turbulent season last time out.
With the addition of new signings and “a lot of fresh energy”, Dier sees the current campaign as “starting from scratch” under Mourinho.
“He has had ‘his’ impact,” Dier, speaking before his appearance at Web Summit, says of the Portuguese’s first year in charge.
“What I mean by that is all the things he brings – the way he wants us to be as a team on and off the pitch. The way he wants the training ground to be, the training sessions.
“He has brought his own style in many different ways and everyone is enjoying working with him. Very quickly, he explained what he expects from us and that’s always been very clear.
“Obviously, as you spend more time together as a group and with the manager and his coaching staff, you start to build a stronger relationship and understand each other better.
“He is very authentic, very real and never changes. That’s something enjoyable to work with – very honest, very direct. He is the first one to be serious and also the first one to have a joke when the time is right.”
Mourinho has even taken to sharing posts on social media after games for fans to decipher.
“He is having fun with it, which is the most important thing, and everyone is enjoying it,” says Dier. “He has given us a few tips here and there on what he thinks is a good Instagram!”
Not that Dier needs any social media advice.
The 26-year-old spent lockdown putting the finishing touches to a social networking app he founded with brother Patrick and friend Zoe Connick that encourages users to share their favourite spots, such as restaurants, cafes and hotels.
“We think it’s something everyone can relate to,” says Dier, who has most of his Spurs team-mates using ‘Spotlas’.
“We’re putting that word-of-mouth experience, where you might ask friends or family for places to go or someone from a city or country you’re visiting, on to a platform to make it a lot easier for people to be able to find the best places in any city they go to.”
Working on the start-up has presented difficulties, especially during a global pandemic, but Dier has enjoyed overcoming those challenges and having a project to focus on.
“Patrick and Zoe have worked night and day, every day, for the past two years and have put in so much,” he adds. “Obviously football is a lot of my time, but we meet every week and discuss new ideas and everything surrounding the app.
“To see the final product, have it on your phone and experience using it has been incredible.”
It has given the former Sporting Lisbon player, who has also been studying for a degree in social sciences through the Open University, a taste for future developments.
“I completed my first year and then Spotlas came in and took over,” explains Dier, who is already considering another app. “For me, it is really important to have different things to focus on outside of football.
“It’s nice to have that distraction and be working on and learning different skills. The app has definitely given me that. I have learned so much doing it – how to manage different situations, working with a start-up and everything that comes with that. I have enjoyed that whole process.”
Come Sunday, however, his focus will be on maintaining Spurs’ spot at the top of the league and welcoming 2,000 fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first time since March.
“We are really excited for that,” says Dier. “For the few that do manage to come, it will be a nice change and hopefully the start of some normality.
“We have been very lucky in the sense we have been able to continue doing what we love. I’ve been trying to remember that as much as possible.
“To be able to come to training every day and still play matches is incredible.”
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