Tottenham Hotspur’s Australian midfielder Massimo Luongo admits he is on a steep learning curve at White Hart Lane and concedes breaking into the first-team squad again could be a long-term project.
Though the 20-year-old Sydneysider got a brief taste of first team action for the Premier League luminary as a 70th minute substitute in a penalty shoot-out League Cup loss to Stoke City 16 months ago, he has had to bide his time since.
He was loaned to Championship battler Ipswich Town at the start of the season but after 14 appearances - and the sacking of Paul Jewell and subsequent replacement with route-one proponent Mick McCarthy - he returned to Spurs in November.
“I was training with the first team squad at Spurs and feeling a part of that before I went to Ipswich but in my absence other players were promoted and now I’m with the under-21s and just doing my best to impress to keep learning,” said Luongo, who captains the all-but-invincible under-21s this season.
“I have no regrets about going to Ipswich. It was a great experience – and if the chance comes to go out on loan again it would be well worth looking at. It is really Tottenham’s call.
“But in some ways it did kill me a little bit in that before going to Ipswich I was in and around the first team and now I am back under the wing of the development coaches Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand.
“That’s still an honour of course but being around the first team was special. It’s going to be hard to get back there and it might take time.
“But it’s not as if I am going anywhere. I have two more years on my deal and I am determined to make it here.
“I haven’t had a great deal of contract with the boss Andre Villas-Boas but last season and also in pre-season I was out there on the training pitch with the likes of Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe, Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon and was initially totally starstruck.
“But it gets to the stage where you don’t think too much of it anymore and you realise that you can compete with them and are not scared to relax and play your natural game.
“Lennon, Defoe and our captain Michael Dawson are all good with the younger boys and always happy to help and pass on bits of advice.”
Since Luongo’s return to the Spurs fold with the under-21s, they have beaten Manchester United 4-2, Newcastle United 6-0 and Aston Villa 4-0.
“We have a really good young team there and I am happy there,” he said.
A ball-playing midfielder with vision and guile but not necessarily the physical game to grind it out in the hurly-burly of a Championship relegation battle, Luongo is not sure if he will be loaned out again before the end of the season.
“It would probably have to be the right club and in the Championship it can be a lot of the long-ball stuff at times,” he said.
“When I first went to Ipswich they were playing a lot on the deck but that changed when results started going against us a bit.
“Of course I want to be playing first-team football but the bottom line is I’d like to go and play for a side that wants to play.”
Becoming the oldest UEFA Champions League debutant came as no real surprise to former Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.