Playing football for hours on end, looking to make a name for yourself and ultimately playing your way into the professional game. It’s a path most players will have experienced however few have reached the top level. Josh Onomah is a player whose game is gathering momentum. Looking to carve a name for himself in the Premier League, we spoke to him as he embraces potentially the biggest season of his career.

Tell us about those places you cut your teeth and learnt the way you play?

“I grew up in Enfield and I remember playing football with my friends every single day. Before school, after school and anytime I could really. In terms of the facilities, we would play anywhere whether it was grass, the streets and concrete and it was definitely competitive. You didn’t want to lose but you wanted to play against the older lot and show yourself. Obviously we didn’t want to get battered physically but those environments and playing against older people meant we developed our skills in that way.”

Did you always want to test yourselves against older guys and show them what you’ve got?

“Yeah definitely. The guys I used to play with would beat everyone our age, they were good. So naturally the next step up from there was to play the stronger, older lot. It was definitely a good time and it 100% helped me progress.”

What do you think you learn most as you’re playing on those pitches with friends and other people from the area?

“I think it’s about being smart with your feet, smart with that touch and also a bit of the dark arts. Knowing how to win particularly, knowing what it takes to win and also what it means. We may have just been kicking around with mates but it meant a lot. Good memories.”

Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0014_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_009.jpg
Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0015_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_004.jpg

Coming down to the Nike Phantom Tournament, it’s all about that creative player. What would you say makes the best creative minded player?

“I think it’s a type of player that has a bit of everything. Sitting in that position between defence and attack where the game can switch at any minute, especially as a midfielder, those players are quick on their mind, knowing what they’re going to do before they’ve even got the ball, they’ll have that killer pass, a few tricks and that strong touch as well. So yeah they’ve got to have a bit of everything and deliver in what they do. They’ve got to be smart with their game.”

You mentioned the “dark arts”, what would you see that as out on the pitch?

“It’s things like getting in the oppositions head. I wouldn’t say it’s dirty but just a bit smart with how you with the mental side of the game as well as everything else. The mental side of the game is big. Obviously you need to put in the time and develop what you do with the ball with your feet but what’s in the mind is massive. I think the foreign players are probably a bit better at it than a lot of English players but it plays a big part.”

What players sparked something for you when you were growing up? What was it about them that stood out?

“Ronaldinho, it has to be. He played with such freedom, such creativity and he inspired me to want to do what he could. I remember watching him and seeing him do something crazy. I remember spending so much time trying to perfect that skill so I could be like him when I was younger. He was just on a different level.”

Do you think there’s an argument to say that his style of play has been taken out of football a little? Are top players encouraged to do the type of things he did?

“I think you could say that. There aren’t many magical players like Ronaldinho though really. I think you’ve got to keep strong mentally and have the belief in expressing yourself and that’s how you set yourself apart from other players.”

Having some Ronaldinho tricks in the locker yourself, would you ever be tempted to bring them out in a game?

“[laughs] I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered all of them. I’ve got a few and I’ve tried a couple of times but it’s about the right time and place. I wouldn’t be afraid when the time is right.”

Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0012_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_034.jpg
Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0013_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_028.jpg

Playing on the level you do now, you’ll be playing on pristine pitches and have top facilities, but does that love for playing in the cage or with your mates ever go away?

“No way, definitely not. When I drive around my area and see kids playing, I just reminisce of all the good times we spent out there playing. It always makes me smile when I think back to those days. Football was and still is everything. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that love for playing in the street or in the cage. I think it keeps you humble too. I’ll never forget where I come from.”

If there’s any player in the Premier League you’d like to test yourself against this season, who would that be?

“I would say Kevin De Bruyne. Watching him in the World Cup, you can see just how much of an unbelievable player he is. The way he passes the ball, the way he thinks so quick and so clearly, he’s a huge role model for me right now so I’d love to play against him.”

Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0009_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_056.jpg
Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0010_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_045.jpg

Off the pitch, where does your style come from? Is it other players, musicians etc?

“I don’t know you know. Music plays a big part of course but I like to go with the flow. I think my taste and style probably comes from where I grew up in Enfield. I like to express myself through my appearance and I think that paints a picture of you as a person. When someone new meets you for the first time, it’s about those first impressions so I try to come across well in how I dress.”

What have you been listening to most over the summer and will that change as you head into the season?

“I like the London hip-hop rap music for sure. That’s big for me but to mix it up, I also like a lot of old school R&B. Something a bit chilled, stuff like Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Ashanti, all those people like that.”

Josh Onomah Interview portraits_0008_EH_SB Nike Phantom Josh Onamah_075.jpg

Having a contract with Spurs until 2021, it shows how highly they rate you, do you need that backing to give you confidence?

“Yeah you do need that and when a club offers you a long term contract, it shows that they have faith in you. It’s then up to you to make sure you work hard to repay that trust and take the opportunity when it comes your way. You’ve also got to do all you can to make that opportunity happen for you. That’s all something I’m looking forward to doing with every day.”

Do you see this season as the biggest ever for you?

“Yeah, I’m not getting any younger and I just think it’s my time to crack on now, my time to take my chances. I’ve just got to stay focused.”

This season is almost like a fresh opportunity back from last season and being on loan at Aston Villa, what are the biggest lessons you learnt there?

“Last season, the biggest lessons I got were all about the experience of first team football. Being around experienced players like John Terry, Jedinak and people like that really helped my development and I really would like to thank them for that and also to Steve Bruce as well, he helped me along the way too and I’ve got to take all the information he has given me and process it into my game now to build my career.”