Josh Onomah targets Tottenham first XI spot after U20 World Cup success

ORLANDO -- Josh Onomah wants to use the experience of winning the Under-20 World Cup to force his way into the Tottenham team alongside his idol Mousa Dembele.

Onomah, 20, started just three matches last season, all in the domestic cups, and he played a total of 18 minutes in the Premier League in five brief cameos.

But the midfielder was a crucial part of Paul Simpson's victorious England Under-20 squad, who became the first English team to a win a World Cup at any level since 1966.

Onomah received an absurd second yellow card in the quarterfinal against Mexico for accidentally treading on an opponent but he returned from suspension to play a key part in the 1-0 win over Venezuela in the final.

"It was an amazing experience for me and my family. A speechless moment to win the World Cup because England haven't done it for a long time," Onomah said in Florida ahead of Tottenham's 4-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the International Champions Cup.

"I've been with that age group since Under-16s, and from young age groups we've been unified. We've always been a team, we've always wanted to achieve great things and to win the Euros in 2014 and then the World Cup this summer, it's just amazing. Anything's possible.

"When I first received the red card, I was speechless. I didn't know what to do ... It was crazy. But I knew my team were going to get me into the final and for them to beat Italy the way they did was just amazing. I couldn't wait to get back into the team. I'm thankful to the gaffer [Simpson] -- he said after I got my red card that no matter what happened, I would play the last game. To get that [assurance], helped me get through it.

"I didn't really sink in until I sat in the room indoors. By then, it was too late! So I thought I handled the situation quite well at the time. I tried my best not to watch it back because I would have got angry with myself. Not watching it helped me out."

Asked if he had returned to Spurs with more confidence, Onomah said: "Yeah, I have to be honest. I think the World Cup has helped with that. The experiences in South Korea have helped me to become a better player mentally and physically. I feel like it's the fittest I've been physically and mentally. I feel I'm ready for any challenges that come my way.

"When I've played in a Spurs shirt, I haven't really been at my best. To go away in the summer and show what I'm capable of doing is something I'm proud of and I look forward to doing it in a Spurs shirt." p>

Onomah has often been used out wide by Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, as he was against PSG on Saturday, but he shone in a deep midfield role in South Korea. Like his teammate and role model Dembele, Onomah hopes he will eventually move inside for his club too.

"I'll play anywhere, as long as I'm playing football. Since I was young, I've been playing that [central] role," he said. "I haven't played it for a long time so for the England manager to trust me there gave me great confidence as well. It's good to play there, and hopefully I can play there.

"But with me, because I'm quite a versatile player and can do a number of things, as long as I'm on the pitch playing for Tottenham, I feel that's the main thing.

"A great example [for me] is Mousa Dembele. Earlier in his career, he started out wide but when he got older he started playing central and deeper. If he can do it, I believe that I can as well.

"Since I've been training with the first team from 14 or 15, he's always been a role model. He's always spoken to me and I like the way he plays. I feel there's some similarities there."

Told that some Spurs fans felt his performances in South Korea were Dembele-esq, Onomah grinned.

"Oh yeah? That's a great compliment because he's an amazing player," he said.

"He's someone that I look forward to playing with in the near future. When I was growing up and I was watching him, before he was Spurs, when he was at Fulham, I liked the way he played. I thought we played similarly, and for other people to see that is just a great compliment."

The U20s win was part of a remarkable summer for English youth football. The Young Lions retained the Toulon Tournament, lost on penalties to eventual winners Germany in the semifinal of the U21 European Championship and won the U19 European Championship with help from Onomah's teammate Marcus Edwards.

"I think that's down to the England manager, Gareth Southgate," said Onomah without hesitation.

"Before he was [senior] manager, he did a lot of work with the younger age groups, about doing things differently and getting that winning mentality -- and it's gone through. Before he was England manager, when we won the Under-17 Euros, he worked a lot with us and he helped us. He spoke to us, gave us his advice, and I think that's helped us going through [the age groups] as well."

Onomah was speaking in Florida during Spurs preseason tour of the United States, following a Q&A with young people from the Special Olympics, which was rearranged at short notice after torrential rain put paid to plans for an outdoor training session.

The 20-year-old admitted has admitted that he has wanted to go on loan previously but says he is now hopeful of taking his chances at Spurs.

"Well, I have [wanted to go on loan] but I trust but I trust the gaffer," he said. "He speaks to me. He gives me confidence when I'm low, when I'm down, and I believe in him. So whatever he thinks is the best for me, I'll stand behind him.

"He's said in training: The best players in training will play. And for a manager to say that -- that it doesn't matter about age or anything -- gives us great confidence as young academy players. We've seen the likes of Harry Kane, who's gone all the way up, so it's just down to us really.

"Harry Winks was in the same position [as me] last year and he was patient and now he's just gone up, played well, taken his chance. I believe that can happen to anyone so you've just got to be patient.

"With less people being bought, it gives us more of an opportunity to play in the team. We've been in and around the first team for two or three years now, and we know what we need to do to get to that starting role.

"I think that's helped a bit but mainly it's down to us and how we apply ourselves in training. We've just got to grab it with both hands, whatever opportunities we get. On and off the pitch we've just got to be professional and smart about it, and grab it with both hands.

"I think really establishing myself in the Tottenham team, playing regularly. That's my main goal for this year."