Djed Spence has opened up about his early experiences at Genoa: “Here, you have more tactics, you need to use your head.” The 23-year-old joined the Rossoblu on loan, having struggled for playing time with Tottenham Hotpsur, and is the clubs management are already considering a permanent move. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, he recounted the decision to make the move and how he’s adapting to Serie A and Italian football.
On January 14, 2020, before the FA Cup third-round match, Tottenham-Middlesbrough, someone knocked on the door of the visiting locker room. “And in comes Mourinho: he came to me and asked for my shirt to give to his son, who was a fan of mine,” recounts Djed Spence, the new wing-back for Gilardino’s Genoa, here to embark on what promises to be a long journey in red and blue.
Surprised? You were only 19.
“Quite surprised, I admit. I gave him my shirt. We’re talking about one of the greatest coaches in the world.”
You arrived in Genoa as part of the Dragusin deal: Genoa had been chasing you for a while.
“I knew they had already tried to sign me last summer, now the conditions were evidently right to close the deal. I am satisfied; it’s an important opportunity. I hope this can be the beginning of a long journey in a club that is growing. I found a nice club and a pleasant city. I settled in quickly; they supported me in everything.”
Who acted as your mentor?
“Everyone in the locker room. There’s a good atmosphere here. Soon I will start studying Italian; for now, I preferred to focus on football.”
Multitasking: at Salerno high on the left, with Lecce low, at Empoli as a wing-back, but on the right. Does changing positions help?
“Absolutely yes. My natural position is on the right, but it’s an advantage to be able to play on both wings: for me and also for the team.”
After the boom year at Nottingham, why didn’t you repeat it at Tottenham?
“That’s football; I couldn’t explain the reasons. It’s true that when you don’t play, it’s difficult to show your worth. No point in asking too many questions. But I believe that even in difficulties, there is always something to learn. Whatever the coach, it makes you richer inside.”
At Nottingham, you’re something of a hero: in 2022, you were instrumental in reclaiming the Premier League after 23 years. Steve Cooper coached you. Like Gila today at Genoa, he had a great rapport with the players.
“Cooper was really an excellent teacher, also on a human level, and he represents one of the keys to my excellent season. He’s my footballing father.”
Could you recreate the same bond with Gilardino in a Genoa that has now raised its ambitions?
“I established a good relationship with him right away. I already knew him because of his significant past as a player; I also talked about it with my agent. The hope is that the same spark will ignite. I know the coach wants to bring me step by step to the level of the others, and I am ready. I was convinced to say yes to the Griffon because they showed me the games, talked to me about the club’s project, and the character of this team.”
103 years after Walsingham, you are the first Briton in a Genoa founded by the English.
“I didn’t know this story… but I am proud of it; it’s an extra responsibility and a great honor for me.”
Differences between the Premier League and Serie A?
“Over there, football is faster, the pace is higher; here, you have more tactics, you need to use your head.”
You’re nicknamed Jet: 33 km/h at Salerno…
“I hope this is an extra help for my teammates.”
You’ve played for the Under 21s, do you think about the English senior national team?
“Of course, it’s a dream and an ambition for anyone. I hope Genoa helps me with that. It would take a goal at Marassi…”
Your favorite player in your position?
“Kyle Walker of City, without a doubt.”
If you’ve come this far today, you must thank…
“My mother Aisha. No one counts as much for me as she does.”