Son Heung-min delivers the most hackneyed of clichés. “We’re looking forward from game to game,” he begins and immediately pulls on. “Basic answer, isn’t it?” he says, pausing and realizing that the final season deserves an explanation.
“It was chaos,” says Son. “As players, young and old, we should all take a big responsibility.” Everyone has been there long enough. If you wear this jersey you should know that you play for Tottenham, in the Premier League and that giving 99 percent is not enough.
“If we think like this and stick together like a family, we can go back up the mountain.” No mess. “That’s very, very important for us as a club.”
Son too has his reputation restored as he settles in with Ange Postecoglou, his fifth permanent Spurs boss, and searches for the deadly form that earned him the 2021/22 Golden Boot.
He’s finally pain free after last season’s agony as he suffered in silence despite having to undergo surgery for a hernia last month.
Tottenham star Son Heung-min is keen to show his troubles last season were unique and insists he is ready for ‘rock and roll’ after undergoing surgery for a hernia that worried him
Son was due to feature for the first time since the surgery against Leicester before it was cancelled, but he has been enjoying Spurs’ pre-season tour (pictured chatting to young fans).
After winning the Golden Boot in the 2021/22 season, he scored just ten goals last season and came the closest to defeat in Spurs’ last game of a miserable campaign against Leeds
“Really hard,” says Son, 31. “I’ve been in pain all season.” In real life it felt good, but on the pitch I was in pain literally every moment. Any action, turning, passing, kicking, anything.
“People are probably wondering why I didn’t have the surgery as early as possible, but for me it felt like every single moment during the season had been a difficult moment for the club.” I didn’t want to let people down, players, staff, fans.
“I take responsibility for whether I played well or badly, in pain or not.” One thing was clear: I didn’t want to let people down by walking away in pain at a difficult moment.”
He also didn’t want to go public with the injury, despite criticism when the goals failed to materialize. He has scored 10 goals in the Premier League compared to 23 last year and the lowest tally since his first season with the club in 2015/16.
“Everyone thinks differently,” says Son. “I’m the guy who always hides my pain.” I didn’t want people to know. We’re professional footballers, everyone’s in pain, everyone takes painkillers before the game.
“I don’t know how many people go to games and think, ‘Oh wow, I feel 100 percent fit with no pain.'” Maybe a game or two a season. Perhaps. you accept it i suffered But I made the decision and took all the blame.
“I can’t say it had a huge effect, but the Premier League is one of the toughest in the world.” “When you’re 100 per cent fit it’s tough, when you’re only able to perform 60 or 70 per cent it’s going to be killer.”
Not only was he suffering the pain of a hernia, he fractured an eye socket in November and had to wear a protective mask for weeks, which he didn’t enjoy.
Son feels like a ‘new man’ ahead of the season and wants to get back to his old form
Ange Postecoglou (left) is Son’s fifth permanent manager since joining Tottenham in 2015
He doesn’t feel guilty about Antonio Conte (centre) after the Italian turned a win against Southampton into a draw in March, lashing out at his players
The last game of Tottenham’s miserable season at Leeds was the next game in which he could retire.
“I looked at the staff and I couldn’t say, ‘There’s one more game and I’m going to have surgery,'” he says. “I just closed my eyes and prayed: please let’s win.”
With that in mind, it’s fair for Son to have been hurt by Antonio Conte’s fierce attack on his Spurs players, who branded them “selfish” after conceding two late goals to convert the win into a draw in Southampton in March.
“It’s a bit painful, but people see it in different ways,” he says. “I don’t think he meant it that way. He was just aggressive and emotional after the game.
“I can’t say anything bad about him.” I’m grateful to have worked with him. I was good with him. The previous season was fantastic. I won the Golden Boot and the expectations were high.
“The team needed me in the difficult moments in a different way and for whatever reason, pain or whatever, I couldn’t perform, so I still feel sorry for him.”
“Obviously the ending wasn’t ideal, not what we wanted, but I’m grateful.” I learned a lot. A lot about football, being human and more passion.”
The surgery puts Son about a week behind his teammates in preparing for the new season. He should have started against Leicester in Bangkok on Sunday but the game was canceled because the pitch was soaked. He is expected to play against Lion City Sailors in Singapore on Wednesday.
Son (above right) poses for a photo with local children from Second Chance Bangkok – with players helping convert some of last season’s shirts into new school bags
“Now I feel really good and fresh,” says Son.
“I feel like a new man.” Ready to rock ‘n’ roll. I just want to show that last season wasn’t the Sonny we all know. It was not lucky that the six seasons ran consistently. It was hard work.
“Last season wasn’t the best, but at the age of 30, I learned the most this year.”
“I can’t say it was a fantastic season, but mentally it was just as good as it was two seasons ago because I saw that I can bring it back from where I started.”
“This season I just want to show that Sonny, who we all know, is still there.”
Son Heung-min spoke to local children from Second Chance Bangkok at a sustainability upcycling event. The players helped the children convert some of last season’s jerseys into new school bags.