Not long before Ryan Sessegnon joined Tottenham, the Collins Dictionary received an application for the word ‘Spursy’ to be added to its lexicon.
The definition, the submission explained, was ‘to have success in reach but to ultimately chuck it away’.
The additional information explained, as we all know by now, the word’s association with the nearlys and not-quites of Tottenham Hotspur. Of which there have been plenty.
Ryan Sessegnon (left) was part of the Tottenham team who won 3-0 at home to rivals Arsenal
The 21-year-old feels Tottenham have shed the ‘Spursy’ tag slapped on them by gleeful critics
The submission is pending investigation and, if the past week is anything to go by, for good reason. Tottenham’s win over Arsenal was a game they knew they had to win.
Lose it and their north London rivals had the top four. Draw it even, and their Champions League hopes were all but dead. But it was Antonio Conte’s side who thrived under the pressure while Arsenal lost their heads.
Spurs are now a point behind the Gunners with two games left and the momentum on their side. For wing-back Sessegnon, it showed not only how they had the mentality to rise to the occasion against their rivals but that they are ready.
‘We showed we can deal with the pressure of many difficult situations,’ he says.
He knows, too, that this final week of the season — the visit of Burnley and a trip to relegated Norwich on the final day — and what is at stake is as much a battle of wits as of strength.
‘It’s a mental game now,’ he says. ‘We have to keep our cool, keep our focus. We are positive about the way the season is looking for us but the job is not done and we need to keep reminding ourselves [that].
‘As great as the win [against Arsenal] was, it’s forgotten now. They have the advantage as they’re one point ahead but you could say the momentum is with us.’
Sessegnon will do well to force the memories out of his mind. When asked where his first north London derby ranks in his Spurs career, he is quick to reply: ‘At the very top.
The wideman will long cherish his first north London derby since signing for Tottenham in 2019
‘The previous ones I haven’t been able to play, for many reasons, so this was very special. The atmosphere was electric from the first minute.’
It is likely to be the same this lunchtime, too, with Spurs knowing a victory over relegation-threatened Burnley would see them leapfrog Arsenal into fourth and pile the pressure on to the Gunners for their trip to Newcastle tomorrow night.
Sessegnon says: ‘I feel like it probably is the best way to just get that Burnley game over and, hopefully, to get the win so it puts the pressure on them on Monday night.’
They will hope they fare better than the last time they faced the Clarets. A 1-0 defeat at Turf Moor and a fourth loss in five Premier League games saw Conte threaten to walk away from the club.
Tottenham had a night to forget when they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley at Turf Moor in February
‘I remember the dressing room being very down,’ says Sessegnon. ‘Conte was just disappointed we didn’t win.
‘That was it. We didn’t really pay too much attention to the outside noise. We bounced back.’
Conte revealed on Friday that his threats had been part of a cunning plan to shake the club into a response. Tottenham won their next two games 4-0 and 5-0. ‘That was the reaction we needed,’ says Sessegnon.
Sessegnon’s career at Spurs has so far been blighted by injury since his £25million move from Fulham in the summer of 2019.
Conte was clearly unhappy after that defeat and dramatically suggested he might quit Spurs
He spent last season on loan at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim. This season he has had three spells on the sidelines but is about to start his fifth successive league game, his longest run since joining the club.
There is a feeling that this is Sessegnon’s time. He is thriving in Conte’s system.
‘He always tells us in meetings that the wing-backs are probably the two most important in the team,’ he says.
‘We have to create the width for our team. The attack and the defence is very demanding, physically, up and down. I think it suits me very well.
‘He’s been very good to give me the faith to play in big games this season. He has improved me a lot on the defensive side.
‘You have to be in the right spaces and be in the right areas to affect the games. There’s still much more to come from me.’
His name is always towards the top of the club’s running stats. Even so, he says it is all about managing his body, making sure he is ready to explode come matchday. He has started doing yoga and Pilates.
‘It’s more the stuff away from the pitch: the physio, the sports science people. On the pitch and in training, it’s about managing it. Two days before a game, don’t be going crazy. Save your energy for the game.’
England youth international Sessegnon hopes he is in contention for a senior Three Lions spot
He turns 22 next week. Yet, in many ways, he talks like an old head. And it feels like he has been around for ever. That is probably because he was only 16 when he came through at Fulham.
He was the first player born after the year 2000 to score in the English league. He has made 180 senior appearances. He also holds the Guinness world record for the fastest time to hit both posts and the bar from outside the box. In case you are wondering, 7.75 seconds.
He was away with England’s Under-21s when he broke it. A year earlier, he had been sent to Russia, courtesy of a sponsorship with Nike, to the World Cup alongside Phil Foden and Mason Mount to experience the atmosphere. They were in attendance for England’s opener against Tunisia.
The lucrative Champions League qualification places are firmly in the balance before the finale
None of them had made their senior debut. Now, four years on, it is only Sessegnon that has not. With a World Cup later this year, and Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell out injured, is there a chance?
‘Looking at another World Cup coming up, it can only make you dream of being in that type of situation at senior level,’ he says.
But first a top-four place to book. ‘It’s no secret that we’re going to watch each other’s games,’ he says. ‘We have to get that marker of winning, then it’s over to you.’
here comes the son: Sessegnon and Conte were happy men as Tottenham thumped bitter rivals Arsenal 3-0 last week, with Son celebrating after getting the third goal in a thrilling performance