‘It was pretty surreal’ – Tottenham player admits recent loan stint proved invaluable 

Alfie Whiteman has admitted that his recent loan spell at Sweedish club Degerfors has proven to be an invaluable experience both on and off the pitch.

Whiteman joined Degerfors on a loan deal during the summer after Spurs signed Pierluigi Gollini on loan from Atalanta.

The goalkeeper played 13 matches for the club in all competitions in what was their first season in the Sweedish top-flight since 1997.

Degerfors managed to avoid relegation in dramatic fashion in their final game of the season after they beat Ostersunds 1-0 while rivals Halmstad played out 1-1 draw against Malmo.

While Whiteman was injured for the club’s win over Ostersunds, he admitted that it was surreal to help secure their top-flight status.

The 23-year-old told Tottenham’s official website: “You could feel among the town, the team and everyone involved with the club, just how much it meant to them. It’s a small town but everyone there just lives for the football club, so it was an amazing thing to be part of.

“I got injured in training the day before the Ostersunds game, we had a long coach journey and there was hope that I’d be fit for the game so I travelled, but that night and into the next morning, it was decided that I wasn’t fit enough to play, but they still needed me to sit on the bench because they had no other keeper.

“It was a real shame that I didn’t get to play that last game, but we dominated, we missed a lot of chances and our keeper wasn’t too busy in the end.

“Our game finished, we won 1-0 which we had to do, but there were five minutes of injury time in the Malmo-Halmstad game and if Halmstad were to have scored, they would have avoided the relegation play-offs and we’d have gone into them, so we were all in the middle of the pitch surrounding someone who had the stream on their phone, all watching and waiting for it to finish.

“As soon as their final whistle went, we just ran over to our fans and the celebrations started. We were in the north of Sweden and we had a nine-hour coach journey back, so the singing didn’t stop for the whole time! Then we went straight to celebrate with all the locals. It was pretty surreal.”

Whiteman did not have the easiest of starts to his loan spell, having to wait 16 days for his work permit to come through after signing for the club.

While the goalkeeper admitted that his initial days at Degerfors were challenging, he revealed that the experience of playing in a high-pressure environment proved a great learning experience.

He said: “It all came about really quickly – I literally found out one afternoon that I’d be going, I packed all my bags and flew out the next morning.

“There was definitely a settling-in period and a need to get integrated into the team – when you’re waiting to play, waiting for the work permit to come through and all the players are asking when you’re going to be able to play, it’s tricky to stay patient, but when I finally got to play, it was great.

“We had a tough start because the team had lost a couple of games and we continued to lose a few, so that was a real challenge coming in and trying to turn our luck around, but eventually we did, we managed to beat one of the big teams, AIK from Stockholm, at home which then started a run of four unbeaten, which was really great.

“We were one of the smaller clubs financially and facilities-wise, so every game was a fight and a tough test, every point mattered and it was really an experience for me to be in a relegation battle where people’s jobs and livelihoods were on the line every week for those points. It literally did go down to the last day when we managed to stay in the league.”

Whiteman also spoke in glowing terms of his experience off the pitch in the north of Sweden, revealing that it helped him get out of his comfort zone.

He added: “Degerfors was an old town, they had a steel factory, but I lived in a slightly bigger town called Karlskoga. There were forests everywhere, a huge lake, it was beautiful.

“At the back of my apartment, I had a forest that I would go on walks in most days, but then I was one train journey away from Stockholm as well so I would get the train there on a day off sometimes and it was really nice to explore that city.

“Sweden is a lovely place and luckily a lot of the people speak English – I was grateful that they could accommodate me. I started to learn a little bit of Swedish but it’s such a different language to English, it was quite tricky with some of the pronunciations.

“I picked up a few basics and when I went into a shop, I’d start trying to speak Swedish but then they’d notice that I was English and they’d start speaking English to me instead! I knew it would be an adjustment but I was happy to take on that challenge – I’d been wanting to have an experience like that and test myself football-wise and as a person, putting myself outside my comfort zone with a new country and a new culture, so yes, it was a great experience and it helped me so much because it was amazing to get into the swing of playing games every week.

“I really noticed the difference when I got into the rhythm, so it was great in that respect as well and I’m thankful to everyone at Degerfors for having me.”

Spurs Web Opinion

Finding loan moves for goalkeepers is usually quite challenging since the parent club needs to be sure that the player will get game time. So, Spurs did a good job sending Whiteman to Degerfors and the experience will have helped the 23-year-old mature both as a player and as a professional.

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