Tottenham have emerged as surprise Premier League title contenders, thanks largely to manager Mauricio Pochettino's attention to detail.
So with eight games to go, their 23-year-old midfielder Tom Carroll met with Bleacher Report to discuss the mental and physical preparation that has given Spurs genuine hope of ending the season at the top of the table.
Bleacher Report: Spurs have collected 18 points this season after being in losing positions—does that explain the mentality of this side?
Tom Carroll: Yeah, there is a really good togetherness in this squad, and the manager has taught us to never give up.
The training methods are quite intense and concentration levels are to the max throughout any session, so when it comes to matches, we know to work for the full 90 minutes.
B/R: Every team tries that—but you seem to be on a different level.
TC: The manager just expects the best from us and everyone has bought into it. Now, when it comes to training, everyone is on it for the whole session. No one gives in. No one sacks it off.
We need a mentality where we never believe we are beaten, and now we are up there challenging, we have to continue with it.
B/R: Do you use iPads or other technology as part of your preparation? It seems that is becoming more popular.
TC: We don't here, no. When I was at Swansea, they used iPads, but here we have meetings and analyse how we will play or what the opposition will do, and everyone just knows their roles.
B/R: When people talk about the intensity of pre-season, how tough was it?
TC: Tough! It starts with quite a lot of running, but the lads bought into it and we are reaping the rewards now because we seem to be fitter than everyone else. We are playing some good stuff as well, so it is obviously working.
Double sessions are intense. We might have a power session in the gym in the morning and then a football session later on. It doesn't matter which way round it is, we just get on with it.
It doesn't matter how many games we have, we all feel fit enough to play in each and every one.
B/R: You have been a part of many sides already despite being 23, how does this squad compare?
TC: Team spirit is strong. It is probably the strongest I have known in my time here—which is quite a while now. We go out together, go to the games room together...it's a close-knit bunch of players.
Most clubs will say they have a close-knit bunch, but this genuinely is as good as I have seen.
B/R: Come on then, tell us about the games room...
TC: We have got FIFA, which can get competitive at times, and then we have got table tennis and pool. I quite like a bit of pool, but the king of FIFA is either Sonny (Heung-Min Son) or Nacer (Chadli). They are on it quite a bit!
Things like that help. Time spent together away from the pitch can count for a lot. Even if it's a meal or just speaking in the evening.
B/R: Presumably your diet is all important as well.
TC: Yeah, we had the nutritionist in today actually, checking our body fat and all that. If we put on a few pounds, we would soon be hearing about it!
We get a guide in pre-season to what we should be eating, and that might change depending on how many games we have. There is no general pre-match meal, though, it pretty much depends on the player and everyone has their specific routines to prepare, which seems to be working.
B/R: It does seem to be working... are you feeling pressure now?
TC: I think everyone is enjoying it. It is great to be up there, but we have to take each game as it comes, get the points on the board and see where it takes us.
B/R: That must be hard, though. I bet you have mates texting you about the fact you could soon be a Premier League champion.
TC: Yeah, we have to believe. But we do also have to take it game by game.
B/R: Let's finish by talking about Harry Kane's goal against Arsenal. Could you sense there was just a different feeling around the stadium when that one went in?
TC: Yeah, when you see a goal like that, you are going to be buzzing. I was on the bench at the time and leapt up with a few of the other lads. It was a great finish from him...and he's still mentioning it to us every now and then!
Harry's been great again this season, and hopefully he can get a few more goals before the end of the season.
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