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Japhet Tanganga reveals what Tottenham team-mates told him before Liverpool clash

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Japhet Tanganga has revealed that his Tottenham teammates told him before his daunting debut against Liverpool: “You have played against Harry Kane in training – don’t worry.” The 20-year-old centre back was a surprise selection by manager Jose Mourinho for the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at the weekend – but the Hackney born youngster of Congolese parents did well enough to be chosen to play the entire 90 minutes of Tuesday night’s 2-1 FA Cup third round replay win over Middlesbrough.

Playing in an unfamiliar right back role, Tanganga again shone with his pace, strength and willingness to get forward.

But he revealed afterwards that before the game against Liverpool on Sunday, which ended ina 1-0 defeat for Mourinho’s injury-ravaged team, he had been unable to sleep – even though his teammates had told him he would be able to cope with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co – because he had been facing players like Kane and Heung-Min Son in training every day.

Tanganga revealed: “I had nerves leading up to it – a couple of nights I hardly slept.

“Obviously beforehand I was thinking those two are probably up there with the best.

“Mane's the African Player of the Year. He's a great player, Salah's a great player. But leading into the game, the boys were just encouraging me. They were telling me Sonny's a great player as well. You come up against him in training. Harry Kane, Lucas Moura – they're top players so you've just got to handle them the way you've been doing in training.

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“Personnel wise they're different but they're still at the high level and you're doing it every day so you should be able to handle it, they said.”

Tanganga admitted he was living the dream right now: “I am pinching myself. After the Liverpool game people were congratulating for me for my debut but I just wanted to move onto the next one. Thankfully the gaffer gave me the opportunity to play against Middlesbrough, make my FA Cup debut and again it was just a great feeling. I'm really happy with all the support and encouragement I've got from everyone.

“I haven't played right back for a while, but obviously if the manager needs me to do a job – left back, right back, midfield – I'll do it. I'm comfortable on the ball, I want to work for the team.”

And he revealed: “My dad was really pleased. I was really happy to see the joy on his face. He's worked so hard for years, you know, taking me to football, sacrificing time off work to take me to games, standing there in the cold watching me when it's raining. He's just been there. I'm so grateful for all that he's given me.”

Do I have aa locker in the first team dressing room now? “I don't know if I can say that. My job is to just keep working with the first team. The manager wants to do what he wants to do. It's up to him. My focus is to keep working, keep getting opportunities to play and try to establish myself in the team.”

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