Former Tottenham youngster Dorian Dervite believes the injury he suffered just as he was breaking into the first-team in North London was the main reason why he failed to make the grade at the club.
Dervite was one of the most highly-rated young defenders in world football when he arrived at Spurs in 2006.
As a teenager, he was already being watched by some of the top clubs in Europe but Tottenham managed to secure his signature and he revealed that former director of football Damien Comolli was the man who convinced him to join the Lilywhites.
Speaking to Football.London, the centre-half said: “You know how it is when you play for the national youth teams, many scouts come to watch the games.
“It started at 15, after my first international game. I received 10 calls from different clubs. Chelsea wanted me, Fiorentina made me an offer and there was Sevilla. In France, there were many clubs.
“My parents thought it was too early to go abroad. They knew my dream was to play in England. In France, we used to have a television programme every weekend which would show Premier League highlights.
“I had some calls from English clubs when I was 15, but my mother said I had to finish my studies. So we made an agreement that when I had finished them I would go to England.”
“So I continued to play for Lille [in the academy] until I finished my studies at almost 18. Then Damien Comolli came to have a chat with me and my parents.
“It was easier because he was French. My mother was more comfortable about letting me go to a new country, knowing that Damien would be there for me if I had any problems.”
Just a few months after arriving at the club, the teenager was handed his competitive debut in the League Cup, in a fourth-round tie against Port Vale at White Hart Lane.
Dervite earned rave reviews on his first display in a Spurs shirt and he admitted that he was learning from the more experienced defenders from the club.
Speaking about his debut, he said: “It was like I was in a dream. I was playing FIFA as these players and then one month later I was playing alongside them.
“At first I admit I was very intimidated but after a while, you get used to it and you realise it’s just football.
“When I arrived in my first season the real characters were Robbie Keane, Danny Murphy, Edgar Davids and Jermaine Jenas. Paul Robinson was also a big character.
“Ledley King was, of course, a big figure at the club. He was not training much with us. He would do his own thing during the week and if you were playing at the weekend he would train on Thursday and Friday.
“He was very good in training despite the fact you could tell he wasn’t giving his all so he could be ready for the weekend. Then the weekend came around and he was one of the best out there every single time.
“He was so impressive. I think if he didn’t have the knee problems he would have been better than Rio Ferdinand.
“He was so good to watch and so was Michael Dawson. I used to enjoy watching him play as well.
“I played alongside him against Port Vale. He was very underrated. He was also so down to earth. A really good man and I liked him a lot.”
However, just as the 31-year-old was starting to get his chances for the first-team, he picked up a serious injury which put him out for an extended period.
The defender believes that killed his chances of making the grade at Spurs.
Dervite added: “I had scored in my first match, that friendly, it was a good moment for me and I then played my first proper match for Martin Jol against Port Vale and people were pleased with me,”
“Then in a friendly game a month or two later against Norwich I got injured and it was serious. I would be out for 18 months, almost two years.
“It was just a tackle but all of my opponent’s body weight landed on my knee and my foot got stuck in the ground.
“Everything was damaged, the medial ligament, the cartilage, the meniscus, it was a big injury. The surgeon had to operate on it twice because it was so bad.
“He told me I had a 50 per cent chance that I would play football again.
“This had happened only six months in at Spurs, when I was starting to really enjoy my dream.
“It was such a shame because I had done well in that cup game and Martin Jol told me how pleased he was with me and that I would play more for the first team and get more and more involved.
“So I went from being very happy and then suddenly this happened. It was a bad moment for me. I was alone at the time, with my family back in France.
“It was really difficult but Tottenham helped me a lot. They gave me the best surgeon in Europe and I’m still playing today so it means he did a really good job.
“If I’m honest I think the injury kind of killed me. After that I was never the same player,” admitted Dervite.
“I’ve still had a career but it will always be frustrating. I’ll always feel that if I didn’t have that injury I’d have achieved better things than I have. I’m still playing though so I have to look at the good side of it.”
Spurs Web Opinion
Like many Spurs fans, I had high hopes for Dervite after his first few months at the club. For someone so young, he seemed extremely composed on the ball and possessed the physical and technical attributes to be a top centre-half. His story just goes to show how one injury can often be the difference between reaching the top and having an average career.
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