Dele Alli: From Milton Keynes to Moscow
Written by Simon Austin — June 11, 2018
DELE ALLI and his mentor, Dan Micciche, chart his progress from the Heelands Courts in Milton Keynes to becoming a key player for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. You can watch their interviews in the Adidas Football video below.
HEELANDS COURTS, MILTON KEYNES
Dele Alli: My earliest memory here was when I was about seven. I’d come up here by myself and join a team and just play. I was playing against men, obviously at the courts and other places around Milton Keynes. You have to change the way you play, you have to manipulate the ball differently.
Growing up playing in the courts definitely helped me add that style into my game. In between the games I was messing around in the goal, playing, and one of the dads (Alan Hickford) came up to me and asked if I wanted to come training with his son. I said ‘yeah, I will come along’.
Dele Alli: For me, as I started to take football more seriously and wanted it to be my career, I thought Milton Keynes was the perfect place for me to be.
Dan Micciche: I remember the first time I saw Dele play. I thought, 'This is a boy who has learned a lot of the game on the streets, playing with older kids, in tight spaces, uneven surfaces, which is great for development. He definitely benefited from that.
Sometimes we get into formalised learning too early, whether it’s coaching or any sphere of life. It can become too structured and stifle creativity and imagination. When I first saw him play, he had so many ideas about what he could do, whether it was scooping the ball over someone’s head, dribbling in between two defenders when I didn’t even think there was a gap, his nutmegs…
What you have got to do as a coach is go with it, because if you do, you can see the talent he’s got. At 13, 14, he was actually a late developer physically and started to get knocked off the ball.
Dele Alli: I got to a point in my career where I hadn’t grown nearly as much as the other boys. He thought physically can I handle the ball in the number 10 or striker role maybe as much as I needed to.
I remember when Harry (Hickford) and George (Williams), who were my two best friends, got called up to the under-16s or 17s, and I was really upset I didn’t get chosen.
Dan Micciche: We kept challenging him, because sometimes you can protect young players, you can be afraid it isn’t going to go well, but actually when the bar was raised he’d be asking me to raise it even more.
Delle Alli: I think I was always in competition with myself, not really focussing on what anyone else was doing, just focussing on being the best player I could be and just trying to enjoy it as well.
Dan Micciche: Him playing in a World Cup, for me is just the natural thing for him to do, because it’s the stage he should be on.
Dele Alli: The World Cup is another step, an opportunity for me to make my mark and play for the country.