In an exclusive interview, Brighton full-back Tariq Lamptey opens up on his decision to leave Chelsea, loving Dani Alves and the extra work that he is putting in on the training ground with Bruno and at home with Dad to help fulfil his potential
Tariq Lamptey only made his first Premier League start in June but he is already a favourite at Brighton and has admirers far beyond. His effervescent performances have earned praise from pundits. Even his career path is seen as symbolic. A player with a passion to play.
The young full-back was on the fringes of the Chelsea first team back in January, making three senior appearances in the space of a month, but he still opted to pursue regular football elsewhere. The subsequent breakthrough at Brighton has vindicated that decision.
Speaking to Lamptey on a visit to his first club Larkspur Rovers, where he is acting as kitman for the day as part of a new adidas initiative to give away 150,000 teamwear kits to 10,000 teams across Europe, his infectious enthusiasm is evident.
“It has been a while since I have been back here,” Lamptey tells Sky Sports. “It is the first team that I joined. My first real memories of football. It is bringing back a lot of memories.”
For some, this little trip back in time would represent a chance to reconnect with why they fell in love with football in the first place. Lamptey plays the game like he never forgot.Sponsored Links
“It is important to remember that you play football because you love it, really,” he says.
“Play with a smile on your face. It brings out the best in you as well because if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy it, then you won’t put in that extra effort that can get you somewhere. Everyone would love to do something that they love. I am in a privileged position that I can.
“It is not too long ago that I was the young kid looking at the professionals on TV thinking it was amazing and how I would love to get there. When I speak to young players I always try to remind them that anything is possible. With hard work, you can achieve your goals.
“As long as you enjoy it, the sky is the limit.”
Chelsea wanted Lamptey to stay. He just wanted to play.
“That is the most important thing,” he explains.
“The only way you are going to improve is to play matches. I am an ambitious boy, who is always looking for an opportunity to play and make things happen. I am at a very good club in Brighton and I am just really happy that I am beginning to play games.”
Lamptey acknowledges that it was “a very tough decision” and speaks of being blessed to have a good family around him to discuss his plans. The move was not taken lightly.
Despite his tender years – Lamptey turned 20 in September – he had been at Chelsea for over a decade. He had friends there and speaks warmly of the family environment.
“I was always with people that I knew, so it was almost comfortable,” he explains. “When you move away from that, you have to be prepared for things not to be the same.”
He is quick to stress that his new team-mates at Brighton have welcomed him “with open arms” but the adjustment, the act of stepping out of his comfort zone, has still helped him grow – on and off the pitch. “You have to mature and be a bit more disciplined,” he adds.
“I am enjoying it, to be fair, I like it.”
Although he is living alone, the influence of his father is never too far away. Lamptey knows that after the debrief with his coaches at the club, another meeting inevitably awaits him.
“I think that is one thing that will never change,” says Lamptey of the lengthy post-game discussions with Dad. Is it on television or tablet? Is he freeze-framing every five minutes?
“It is everything,” he adds, laughing. “When I get home, he is ready for me. We cover the game. I sit down and it’s, ‘OK, what do I need to improve.’ We work through it together.
“He is always telling me how I played and what I need to improve. I am really grateful to have a person like him because he is one of the reasons I am where I am today.
“It is important to do little things like that but it is enjoyable as well. To be able to do that with my dad is really important to me because we started this journey together.”
It is a bonding experience between father and son but it is also indicative of the fact that behind the smile there is a steely determination to be the best that he can be.
“After training, I can still stay on longer and work on what needs to be improved because you can never just rest on your laurels and think you had a good game. You can always improve and you have to because there are some fantastic players in the Premier League.
“The only way to cope with that is to keep challenging yourself. I take each training day and each match as an opportunity to enhance my game and learn from so many fantastic players. Hopefully, I continue to do that. I feel like I can get to a really good level.”
Another significant influence over this past year has been former Brighton right-back Bruno, now part of the coaching staff. The Spaniard was never as quick as Lamptey but his work on the training ground, on positional play and defensive body shape, has been vital.
“Things like that are invaluable,” says Lamptey. “I am just like a sponge trying to absorb every bit of information that he gives me. He is a fantastic guy and a legend of the club.
“You cannot have anything better than someone who has played in your position at the highest level. After games, he passes on his experience. I am so grateful that he is here.”
It is another right-back, Dani Alves, who was Lamptey’s childhood idol. Despite having a preference for Manchester United as a youngster – “I thought I’d kept that quiet!” – it was that famous Barcelona team that really captured his imagination as a young boy.
“The football they played, I think everyone fell in love with them,” he says. “I loved to watch Dani Alves. He played with so much flair and he is always smiling and enjoying his football. That is what I like to think I try to do as well. I try to bring out the fun in the game.”
There are other echoes of the Brazilian’s approach in Lamptey’s fledgling career. “Whenever I get the chance to attack I look to take it. I do enjoy running at defenders from deep.”
But the overriding sense is that, for all the hard work, for all the extra hours that he puts in at home and on the training ground, Tariq Lamptey just enjoys playing football, full stop.