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The Isolation Interview: je m'appelle Luke Amos

MIDFIELDER Luke Amos explains what he has put his mind to during this lockdown period, as he stars in our next Isolation Interview.

The Tiger King, Ozark, Too Hot To Handle, Afterlife 2, Money Heist. You’ve probably seen them all by now.

House Party chats, Zoom quizzes. They started out fun, but the novelty wears off after a while.

As the country – and the globe – continues to fight this COVID-19 pandemic, we are all having to adjust, having to follow rules that a few months ago would’ve only been read in a fictional novel or heard in a cinema.  

‘Please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary’. That’s been the message from the UK Government since March 23rd when ‘lockdown’ measures were introduced.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that the UK was ‘past the peak’ on Thursday evening but, for now, the message remains the same: please stay at home.

It’s been – and continues to be – a challenge for us all; dealing with the boredom, the monotonous routine, not knowing when we’ll have ‘normal’ life back, not knowing when we’ll have the escapism of football back.

If you’re fortunate enough in that you haven’t lost any loved ones to this awful virus, your job is safe and your mental health is stable then dealing with the above is quite possibly your main concern at the moment.

We’ve all turned to different things to combat the boredom, to make the clock tick that little bit faster so we can edge closer to the return of normality.

Some have binged TV series on Netflix and Amazon Prime, some have upped their exercise schedule, some have read books and some have done DIY around the house.

Rangers midfielder Luke Amos is pursuing his wish to learn a new language.

The 23-year-old, who first joined his parent club Tottenham Hotspur aged 10, started French lessons when he was a pupil at The John Warner School in Hoddesdon.

By the end of Year 10, aged 15, he’d achieved a GCSE A Grade in it and then continued to study with a French tutor throughout his full-time scholarship at Spurs.

Things were temporarily put on hold as he got closer to Tottenham’s first team but after sustaining a serious knee injury in September 2018 he picked it up again. With the football season now paused, he’s done the same once more.

“I spent an hour doing my homework for this week – I felt like a 13-year-old again,” he laughed as he told www.qpr.co.uk. “I have three or four hours of Skype lessons per week and I do extra learning and get set homework every time.

“When I speak with my tutor I feel really good because he speaks nice and slowly but I know that if I was to try and join in with Yoann [Barbet] and Ilias [Chair] then I wouldn’t have a clue.

“I will get there, though. I’m determined to.”

At 23 years old, Amos falls into what you could call the ‘smart technology generation’ where young people can often spend hour after hour in front of a screen.

Whether it’s a television, tablet or mobile, it’s so easy to be consumed by on-demand TV, games consoles, social media and the like.

It’s, therefore, a bit out of the ordinary that he wants to learn another language but his determination is clear.

You sense when speaking to him that when he says “I’ll get there”, he means it.

He said: “As long as I can remember, I’ve always said that I wanted to speak another language.

“For so long I was saying ‘I want to keep learning’ but wasn’t doing anything about it. Now I have a good opportunity to learn and it really helps to keep my brain active.”

Once he has ticked ‘fluent in French’ off of his to-do list, he is aiming to learn Spanish and to play the piano, and that’s alongside all of his on-the-pitch targets.

For Amos, football started before he can remember. He giggles as he explains his dad still tells him that, as a toddler, he used to kick “everything in the house”.

As he grew a little older, a football pitch close to his family home provided their living room furniture with some respite from his flailing legs and by aged 10 he’d been picked up by Spurs, having been scouted at his junior team Ware FC.

Initially joining the north London club as a tricky winger, he had spells in the number 10 role and both full-back positions during his youth team days before eventually settling in his familiar central midfield berth.

At age 16, he earned his academy scholarship and, at school, eight A-Grade GCSEs – including that one in French – and two A*s in Geography and Physics were achieved.

It got a little tougher from here as a nasty bout of Osgood-Schlatter (growing pains) impacted his performances and the emergence of Josh Onomah and Harry Winks at Spurs saw his playing time reduced.

“Looking back, it all makes sense but at age 16-17, I didn’t know what I was doing. I shot up in height and lost all of my coordination.

“I was never the most confident when I was younger either and I would compare myself to other players – teammates and opponents – and make myself feel inferior. It was really hard.

“It’s so natural to compare yourself, everyone does it, but it doesn’t benefit you at all. I’m not like that now. I’m not intimidated by any player and am in a good place.”

A brief loan stint at Southend United gave Amos his first taste of senior football in 2017 and 12 months later he made the temporary switch to Stevenage.

The rough-and-tumble of regular League Two football saw him return to Spurs, in his own words, “as a man” and that summer he headed to America on Tottenham’s pre-season tour.

On the opening day of the season, he came off the bench to help Spurs to a Premier League victory away at Newcastle United and it seemed only a matter of time before he’d earn a first start for the club.

Then disaster struck. In the final week of September 2018, he was disappointed not to be named in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad to play Watford in the EFL Cup and, at the same time, the Amos family were told by their landlord that he needed his house back.

On the Friday of that week, Amos travelled to Blackburn for an U23s match. He’d put the disappointment of not being involved with the first team to one side and prepared as normal.

Twenty minutes into the match, he went to close down an opponent and that would prove to be his last involvement in a competitive match for 11 months.

“It was one freak moment. I went to press – I must have done that a million times in my life – but this one time I went to turn then everything in my knee just crunched and clicked.”

He had barely fallen to the turf before thoughts of fear started to race around his brain. What had he done? How long would he be out for? Why now?

“I instantly thought, I’ve worked so hard for so long to get into this position and now it’s all going to be taken away from me. I’m so close to the first team, so close to the Premier League. That’s all I could think about.

“I limped to the changing room by myself and when I got in there I just started crying. My knee swelled up straight away, the pain was unbearable and the doctors gave me loads of pain killers but it wouldn’t stop it.”

Amos was met by his dad at Spurs’ training ground after a long, painful journey home and a scan a week later revealed the full extent of the injury.  

“Best case scenario, I was hoping six weeks and in my head I thought realistically it’s going to be three months. I thought I’d push it and would be back in January.”

His reality and the actual reality proved to be very different. He had ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and by the January he was still waiting for the green light to begin running in straight lines again.

A visit to the Aspetar clinic in Qatar provided him with a healthy change of scenery during his rehab and many tears of pain and anguish were shed as he fought his way back to full fitness over the next nine months.

“I can remember every day of my recovery but, at the same time, it is like a blur. I tried to maximise every single second that I had a and I found energy that I didn’t know I had.

“I’d been on top of the world, was training with the first team and was one pick away from starting in the Premier League and I wanted to get back into that position as quickly as possible.

“There were days that were overwhelming, where I’d be in the gym and would have to go and hide in the altitude chamber to let some tears out and then get back into the gym.”

For any footballer, recovering from an injury is tough. Recovering from a long-term injury is tougher. Recovering from a long-term injury as a young player when you’re on the brink of breaking into the first team is arguably even tougher.

“Emotionally, that was just as hard as physically. I had a lot of people around me who felt my pain and that helped me a lot.

“What was also really hard was when the team were doing well. I remember when Tottenham got into the semi-final of the Champions League and everyone was so happy and excited, but I was on my own working in the gym thinking ‘I’ve potentially missed one of the biggest moments of my life’.

“It made me so determined to get back, though. That was the positive, if you like. Sometimes I’d be asking for more and the physios would say ‘no, go home’ so I’d sneak into the academy gym where they couldn’t see me and would do some extra work on my upper body. I know I couldn’t have worked any harder.”

By the six-month mark, Amos’ recovery was almost complete. He was well ahead of schedule and the only thing preventing him from playing football was that the season had finished.

He jumped at the chance to join Mark Warburton’s QPR at the beginning of July and soon had a football back at his feet during pre-season training.

“Just to be outside playing football and part of a group again, that feeling was unreal.

“I was enjoying passing the ball, scoring goals, tackling. It was something I had missed so much. Only when it’s gone do you really appreciate it.”

He’s gone on to make 26 competitive appearances for the R’s this season, with all-but one of those coming in the Championship.

“I played one game last season, so it’s impossible for me not to think about that when I talk about this year.

“It took some time to adjust to the Championship and I remember I wasn’t my sharpest to begin with but I’m happy to a certain extent. I’ve had some good games and games that weren’t as good but I know there is much more to come.

“It’s been a positive year compared to last year. I’m hard on myself because I know I’ve got more in me and I’m determined to show that when we do play these last nine games.”

That determination has served him well over the last couple of years – be it in his recovery from injury or in his French lessons – and, next time it’s required, hopefully QPR can reap the rewards of it.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always said that I wanted to speak another language.

Luke Amos