‘People will be getting sick of seeing me,’ he says with a smile.
Alli has, of course, had his ups and downs and at England’s St George’s Park base it is not long before the conversation moves on to some of the more controversial incidents that have a particular relevance ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
Dele Alli wants to play with passion and hunger despite concerns over his aggression
When Gareth Southgate addressed his players on rule changes that could see a player retrospectively dismissed for violent conduct during a game — if the offence is subsequently spotted by the video assistant referee — players like Alli were very much in his thoughts.
For all his talent, the Tottenham midfielder does have a bit of form. There was that sly punch into the stomach of West Brom’s Claudio Yacob that led to a three-match ban that ruled him out of the title run-in three seasons ago. Not to mention a horror challenge on Gent’s Brecht Dejaegere last year.
That was seen by the match officials and a red card and another three-match suspension followed.
Alli has been involved in several controversial incidents, including with Claudio Yacob in 2016
‘At the World Cup the referees and linesmen are all going to be a very high level anyway, so you are always aware of that,’ said Alli. ‘It means you have to stay concentrated and you can’t do stupid things.
‘And, if you do, you have to learn from your mistakes. But I don’t think people will be trying to do bad things (in Russia). If they do, and they get punished for it, then it’s going to be their own fault.’
England suffered painful World Cup exits in the past when David Beckham (1998) and Wayne Rooney (2006) received red cards. Alli insists he will not do anything that will see him sent prematurely to the dressing room.
The 22-year-old England midfielder insists that he has ‘definitely learned from his mistakes’
‘I’ve got everything under control,’ he said. ‘Every game is different, and you never know what’s going to happen, but that’s not what I’m going to be worrying about. I’ll just be myself, the way I always am. I want to play with passion, I want to play with hunger in every game I play, and I’ve made mistakes in parts of my career.
‘You have to make mistakes in order to learn from them, and if you look at my record I’ve definitely learned from my mistakes.
‘I know that when you’re playing the games you are focused on trying to help the team as much as you can, so you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you could jeopardise the team and lose the game for your team. Not when you’re on international duty for your country. There are a lot more things I need to focus on in a game rather than that.’
A key one would be that recent shift in position in the England side, from foil to Harry Kane to a more central midfield role. Southgate wants Alli’s creativity in that area of the field and the 22-year-old’s performance against Nigeria in the penultimate World Cup warm-up game at Wembley was encouraging.
The Tottenham midfielder could make a major contribution at this summer’s tournament
‘It’s not a new position for me,’ he said. ‘At MK Dons I was playing there and it wasn’t until I signed for Tottenham that I started playing in the No 10 role. I enjoy playing there.
‘Although when you’ve got the Three Lions on your jersey you’ll play anywhere you’re needed. Yes, it’s the battleground and there are a lot of different challenges. But there are no guarantees I’m going to be picked to play there or not. There’s a lot of great players in the squad for Gareth to choose from.’
DELE ALLI’S 2017/18 SEASON
Premier League – 36 games, 9 goals, 11 assists
FA Cup – 7 games, 1 goal, 2 assists
Champions League – 5 games, 2 goals, 4 assists
League Cup – 2 games, 2 goals
Total – 50 games, 14 goals, 17 assists
Such a lack of certainty no doubt stems from his omission from the starting team for those two friendlies in March, which it has been suggested was prompted very much by Southgate’s desire to give Alli a timely kick up the backside.
One report even hinted at Southgate being unhappy with the way Alli conducted himself on the bench during the 1-0 defeat of Holland in Amsterdam. Having come off the bench against the Dutch, he didn’t get a kick during the subsequent match with Italy.
‘I wasn’t concerned,’ Alli said of being axed. ‘I was disappointed not to play. It’s down to me to make sure that if the boss has a decision to make, I put myself in the best possible position to be picked. You don’t always perform to your full potential but it’s important that I come back hungry. I’m one of many people who wants to be in the team.’
He is, however, the only one plastered all over The Tube.
‘I haven’t been on the Tube to see it for myself,’ he said. ‘Football will always be the main focus for me, but I think it’s great we get opportunities to try something different.’
Curiously the fashion retailer is called boohooMAN but, like he says, there should be no Gazza-style tears in Russia.