Updated: Mar 1, 2020
As Toby Alderweireld made the long journey by road and rail to get from Antwerp to Birmingham for Tottenham's game at Aston Villa earlier this month, it must have been hard to escape the overwhelming feeling of a new start.
Having just witnessed the birth of his son Jace in Belgium, Alderweireld had planned to fly to England in time for his
team's game. But with his plane grounded by a storm, the 30-year-old's trek through Belgium on the Eurostar back to England was motivated in part by a will to impress a new manager.
'For me Jose Mourinho is an unbelievable people manager, someone who you want to travel eight hours by road to play on a Sunday after your son is born,' Alderweireld said this week.
'That’s the feeling you get, the feeling I have for him. You don’t want to disappoint him.'
Aldwereireld's afternoon at Villa that day was mixed. He scored an own goal and then his team's equaliser as Tottenham won 3-2.
Nevertheless, the latter half of this season feels a little bit like the second coming of a player who lost his way a little bit in the final days of Mauricio Pochettino.
Last December he signed a new contract at the club, something that never looked likely during the final difficult days of Mourinho's predecessor.
Just as importantly, he is back in the team.
'I guess it looks like I am happier now because the former manager left and I signed a deal,' he said.
'But I was happy back then as well.
'There were a lot of things going on behind the contract but I’ve always been happy at Spurs and will always do my best for Spurs.
'The more options I got the more I had to choose what I wanted and I was just like: "I want to stay at Spurs".
'With a second child on the way I just wanted to stay and when the new manager came in he just asked me if I wanted to sign.
'After that the process went a little bit quicker because he did some things.
'I don’t know what the club’s tactics were. But when Jose came in it moved a bit quicker.'
Alderweireld will always be associated with the best days of Pochettino's Tottenham.
A defensive line that once went Walker-Alderweireld-Vertonghen-Rose was once one of the most formidable and athletic of the modern Premier League era.
Equally, he undoubtedly suffered at Pochettino's capricious hands - even if he doesn’t want to say so. The Argentinean was not a man to indulge players prevaricating over contracts and only now does it seem that the central defender can really look forwards again.
'It always hurts when you are left out,'
'The manager never gave me any reasons. But I understand that.
'I am not the guy who knocks on his door and says: "Hey, what about me?". I think that is very selfish.
'Let’s be honest, he brought this club to the next level and I am grateful for what he did for the club. I think everyone is.
'I just always thought - again it sounds like arrogance - that I will show I deserved to be in the team, and that’s what I did.'