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Tottenham boss Antonio Conte puts faith in Steven Bergwijn as Harry Kane understudy during packed fixture list

·3-min read
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte puts faith in Steven Bergwijn as Harry Kane understudy during packed fixture list

Antonio Conte has offered Steven Bergwijn the chance to revive his Tottenham career by becoming Harry Kane’s understudy at centre-forward.

Spurs begin a gruelling run of ten games in 30 days with Thursday night’s home derby against Brentford and Conte has confirmed that Kane, the club’s only senior striker, is unlikely to start them all.

Bergwijn has struggled for consistency since joining Spurs from PSV Eindhoven in January 2020 and the winger has been linked with a return to the Eredivisie next month.

Under Conte's predecessors, Heung-min Son typically deputised for Kane through the middle, but the Italian wants to keep Son at No10 and revealed he is prepping Bergwijn to play up front.

Asked by Standard Sport if Kane would need to be rested this month, Conte said: “I think so and I also think Steven could be a good option [to deputise].

"In the past I have seen that Son played No9. Honestly, I prefer Son to play as a No10 – in the position that he is now playing. I like to have a point of reference as No9. Steven is working and we are utilising him also in this position [and] in the three positions off the striker. Steven could be a good option on the day that I want to give a rest to Harry.”

Bergwijn scored on his first three home appearances in England, including crackers against both Manchester clubs, but his confidence appeared to drain after he missed a glorious chance in the 2-1 defeat at Liverpool in December – which triggered Spurs' slide down the table.

He has scored just once for Spurs since the start of last season but Conte says the Netherlands international – who helped his country qualify for the World Cup with a brilliant goal last month – is not alone in lacking confidence.

“I honestly think many players have to recover their confidence at Tottenham,” the head coach said. “When you finish the season in seventh, for sure the confidence is not up. This is another aspect we’re working on – to improve [players’] confidence."

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Conte added: “[In Steven] we're talking about a player that has important skills. It was a pity for me – but not the [Dutch] national team, because he scored in qualifying – because I would have liked to have him during the two weeks of the international break to work with him and know him much better.

“But for sure he has great quality. He's good one-v-one, he's fast, he can beat a man and also score. He's understanding what I want from him. Tonight, he’s ready and available – and I’m counting on him.”

Kane has started all four matches under Conte, including the embarrassing defeat to NS Mura last week, and he was named in the XI for Sunday’s postponed visit to Burnley.

Getting the best out of the England captain remains one of Conte’s most pressing challenges, with Kane still having scored just once in 11 League appearances.

Conte, though, has no doubts about Kane’s enduring quality and says he has only been able to truly appreciate his “level” since working with him at close quarters.

“We have a world-class striker as a No9 in Harry and I am very delighted to have the opportunity to work with him because many times you make an evaluation [of a player from] outside [the club],” Conte said.

“But only when the coach has the possibility to train players, do you understand their level. With Harry, I was enthusiastic to see him in the way that he works every day and the commitment, heart and passion that he puts into Tottenham. It was not a surprise but when you arrive you do not know what you find. And I found this.”

Conte will be without Argentine pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso against the Bees, and could name the same XI which was due to start at Burnley before snow forced an 11th-hour delay.

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