AARON McENEFF earned his Spurs alongside Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen.
However, he admits the pain of being axed by Tottenham left him picking up the pieces in Ireland.
Derry-born McEneff, 25, was afforded an elite education as a teenager, making the move to White Hart Lane at the age of 17 and immediately linking up with a youth team which included current England international Harry Winks.
He was also given the chance to feature alongside Kane for Tottenham’s under-21 side when the Three Lions hero returned from loan at Leicester and trained with a host of global superstars when he was drafted into the senior set-up.
McEneff recalled: “The coaches I worked under were top notch — Tim Sherwood, Chris Ramsay, John McDermott and Kieran McKenna, who is at Manchester United now.
“They were top quality and taught me things that I have taken through my whole career.
“You’re playing and training with really good players, with lads like Josh Onomah and Harry Winks progressing really well.
“I trained quite a lot with the first team in my second year and, as you get used to the levels guys like Christian Eriksen, Moussa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen play at, it can only be good for you.
“Harry Kane came back from loan and we were playing in the Under 21s together, too — then he took off completely!
“It was a football education.”
However, McEneff’s spell in London was derailed by a serious injury in the final year of his contract, resulting in the conversation which has broken many young players.
He continued: “I was called in and they just said ‘look, we’re going to let you go’. I kind of saw it coming but when it actually happens, it’s tough to take.
“Being over in London at that age is excellent – bright lights and playing for a big club – but then you get setbacks and it is hard when you’ve got no family over there.
“I went on a few trials after that but I really needed to go back home, press the reset button, refocus on myself and get my head right.”
Derry City were the beneficiaries of McEneff’s decision to head home in 2015, with the midfielder enjoying three successful years with the Candystripes. That earned him a move to Shamrock Rovers in 2018 and, having notched 18 goals in 60 games there, he was called up to the Ireland squad last November.
He did not feature in that Nations League meeting with Bulgaria — but reckons his switch to Hearts will give him even more chance of catching Stephen Kenny’s eye.
He added: “It definitely puts me in the shop window for Ireland. It was a proud moment for me to get called up to the international squad — a dream come true — and I’ll never stop striving to get that first cap.”
Another dream will come true for McEneff in May when he becomes a dad; another factor behind his decision to move to a city he and partner, Ellen, know well.
He added: “Ellen went to Edinburgh University for four years and her sister and her aunty live in Edinburgh too.
“We actually have a baby on the way in May – so those family connections will come in handy!”