WHEN I was on loan at Antwerp as a 19-year-old, all the first-team players had their own footballs to look after.
Each had your number on and we had to make sure they did not get lost, clean them after training and put them back on the rack ahead of the next session.
It may sound like nothing but it was all part of a learning curve, about taking responsibility.
There was no one doing everything for me, no one cleaning my boots.
To be abroad at that age broadened my horizons and made me grow up quickly off the pitch. That makes you take responsibility on the pitch, too.
I mention this because the young British players at Spurs, the driving force behind their brilliant season, have all had some life experience beyond the often cosy Premier League academy environment.
They are a mature bunch for their age. This comes with having to grow up off the pitch. And not falling for the trappings of Premier League academy life where kids can rest on their laurels.
The lads I’m thinking of are Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier.
Other than Kane and Trippier, they all grew up outside the Prem.
Walker was at Sheffield United and had more than 70 appearances on loan at the Blades, QPR, Northampton and Aston Villa before getting a crack with Spurs aged 19.
Dier was in Portugal at Sporting Lisbon as a kid. He had nearly 50 appearances before joining Spurs at 20.
Kane had loans at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester, where he played more than 50 times.
Dele was at MK Dons where he played 74 times before cementing a Spurs spot.
Rose joined Tottenham at 17 but went on loan and played more than 50 times at various clubs before becoming a White Hart Lane regular.
Davies was at Swansea as a youngster when they were not in the top flight.
OK, he was promoted with them and had 85 Premier League appearances for the Swans but his footballing personality had been forged by then.
Trippier — who had been at Manchester City, Barnsley and Burnley — joined Spurs at 25 and had nearly 200 games outside the Premier League under his belt.
All this experience is invaluable. These guys will have been playing for clubs where their team-mates are relying on win bonuses to pay mortgages.
It is a different world and gives you a different appreciation of the game.
Dele has 177 appearances and he is not yet 21. When the others hit 21 they were not far off 100 — bar Rose who had 40.
How many players who have come up through a Prem academy — and have not gone on loan — have that experience at 21?
Spurs have one of the youngest squads in the league but it is not a hindrance because of their experience.
It is no surprise they are full internationals already bar Trippier — and he could win an England cap soon.
If you haven’t made an impression at your club by the age of 19 or 20, you have to go on loan. You come back a better player.
Sir Alex Ferguson knew when the time was right for players to get experience. Then, you would come back and be more involved, go out again or be sold or released.
I said last summer that if none of the top six clubs made any signings, Spurs would be the only ones to improve. I felt that because they’re young, not at their peaks and have the experience of last season to spur them on.
But also they have plenty of life experience in the bag, too.
l I’D like to pass on my condolences to Ugo Ehiogu’s family after his tragic and sudden death on Friday.
I saw him a couple of years ago coaching at Spurs and it was obvious how passionate he was about improving youngsters, not only as footballers but as people, too.