SERGE AURIER wore his heart on his sleeve during four torrid years at Tottenham.
Never more so than when he put his own personal pain and grief aside for 90 gut-churning minutes to do Spurs and his family proud — two days after his younger brother was murdered.
Christopher Aurier was shot dead outside a nightclub on the outskirts of Toulouse, France, in the early hours of Monday, July 13, 2020.
The 26-year-old amateur footballer was senselessly killed hours after right-back Aurier had enjoyed one of the highlights of his Tottenham career when he helped them come from behind to beat North London rivals Arsenal 2-1.
But the Ivory Coast skipper had to dig much deeper that midweek when he ignored the sleepless nights, spent trying to make sense of everything, to give his all for Spurs again.
In an amazing show of character, Aurier ran his heart out to help Jose Mourinho’s team beat Newcastle 3-1 at St James’ Park and maintain their push for a Euro spot.
Immediately after that victory, he flew home to comfort his grieving mother.
But, incredibly, he was back in action that weekend in a 3-0 win against Leicester — he only missed one minute of Spurs’ run-in that saw them play six games in 20 days and qualify for Europe.
Now, heading back to Spurs today as a Nottingham Forest player, Aurier has lifted the lid on why he insisted on playing through the pain three years ago.
He said: “I played for my mum. She needed to know that life doesn’t stop.
“We lost my brother, who we loved so much, but I wanted to play that night at Newcastle because this is my profession.
“Afterwards we have our own life as a family. So although it was a bad moment for me, I am strong in my mind.
“I just wanted to show my mum that, ‘Yeah, we lost my brother but you have another kid in this life, too’. I wanted to show her this is a bad moment but, don’t worry, because I’m here and I am going to work so hard again for you and for the family.
“When my mum saw me on the pitch, running and fighting, of course it couldn’t change anything.
“But she felt that, ‘Yeah, I lost my kid but I have another one I can see on TV, running and playing with pride’.
“Then I went home and I felt she was proud of me. This is my family mentality. We see everything in a different way. We try to take bad things in life and handle them.
“Don’t be crying and stay in that mindset for ten months — try to do something good to change the mentality and the mood.
“It was difficult to see myself, my mother and brother being so sad. But it’s impossible for my family to let someone feel sad all the time.
“We put bad energy away and replace it with positive energy. We realise life doesn’t stop and this was real. It’s what makes us as a family.
“Today you cry and tomorrow you laugh. Today you win, tomorrow you lose. You have to know this is the ritual of life — we cannot stop for bad news.
“It’s difficult but tomorrow’s another day, and this is my family’s mentality.
“Now I try to help my family, my daughter, and I try to help my sister.
“Sometimes we just sit together and we talk about everything. This is how I put football pressures out of my mind.
“My family laughs a lot and we never accept the bad — we just always stay positive.”
Aurier’s positivity has rubbed off on his Forest pals, who have benefited from the experience of the star full-back, who arrived at Spurs from Paris Saint-Germain for £23million in 2017.
Forest were bottom of the Prem having lost five games on the spin when under-pressure boss Steve Cooper handed free-signing Aurier his first start.
Since that 1-1 October draw with Aston Villa, they have been much improved and now sit four places and four points clear of the relegation zone — they also reached the Carabao Cup semi-final.
Aurier, 30, is loving life again as a father figure in the dressing room.
He said: “The pressure here is different to Spurs or PSG.
“I have enjoyed everywhere I’ve played. I enjoyed it in Spain with Villarreal, who were not a big, big team but we made the Champions League semi-final last year.
“In life, you need love and at Villarreal you could feel it from the fans. It’s the same at Forest, so it’s easy to give your best.
“When you are a footballer it is the small things you treasure, like the atmosphere at the City Ground, or meeting the fans in the street, which doesn’t always happen at the biggest clubs.
“We started the season badly but we have fought hard to get where we are and now we have every chance of staying up.
“We’ve beaten Liverpool, drawn with Chelsea and Manchester City — and for me that’s massive.
“But we need to keep believing because it’s not easy when everyone is fighting to stay up.
“I had four amazing years at Tottenham and now I just want to help Nottingham Forest.
Forest boss Cooper added: “Serge has been a great presence. The stuff you don’t see is the presence at the training ground and in the group.
“It’s been a real positive and I have encouraged it. I like our senior players to take leadership and responsibility. It’s vital to have a strong dressing room. Serge is a good example of that.”