Well, this is something that applies to every player really. In football you have to keep your concentration for the whole game, if you don’t, you could come unstuck and cost your team. You need to know your position and where you need to be on the pitch. It doesn’t matter if the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch, you have to remain focused on what is happening because very quickly you could be faced with the ball.
As a right-back I come up against left wingers or midfielders. Some may play more narrow than others, while some may hug the touchline and get as wide as possible. You’re faced with a lot of one-v-one situations as a full-back. You’re playing in a channel of the pitch, and will often find an opposing player running at you with the ball. If they get around you, they will be in a very threatening position and will then put a cross into the box. It is my job to stop that happening, so I try and stay as tight as I can to my opponent and look to stay one step ahead by predicting what they will do next.
It’s a very demanding position to play, it can be very difficult. As a defender, quite often you have to do all you can to keep the ball out. You have to block shots, win headers and tackles and battle for every ball. It all comes down to commitment, you’ll take a few knocks, but that’s all part of being a defender.
Of course, first and foremost I’m a defender, but at the same time, I like to contribute going forward. As a full-back you play in a channel of the pitch, and you have to get up and down many times during a match. You have to have good stamina, so small sprints and shuttle runs will certainly help build yours up. You have to be energetic, especially here at Fulham, where I am encouraged to get up in support and sometimes even beyond the likes of Damien Duff and Ashkan Dejagah.
If like me, you are an attacking right-back, you will also find yourself putting crosses into the opposition box. This is something you have to do, the further forward you go. During a match you could have to put between five and 10 crosses in, sometimes even more. There will be times where you will have time to take a touch and then deliver the ball, but there will also be times when you have to put a first-time cross into the box – which is a difficult skill. You have to try and be precise with your deliveries, because it’s a great way to help score a goal. I always try and put the ball into the area between the goalkeeper and our striker, this is the danger zone. I practice crossing a lot, as it’s a big part of my game. Most days I will stay longer on the training pitch to practice, but if you are to improve on something this is what you have to do.