John Giles: It was a few years ago that I first noticed something about Dele Alli that made me uncomfortable
I reckon it was a couple of years back when I first spotted something in Dele Alli which made me wonder about him.
It was his occasional wilful nastiness which jarred with me and sat uncomfortably with the rave reviews he was getting.
Don’t get me wrong, I was just as enthusiastic about his talent as everyone else because he has plenty of the attributes I look for in top-quality players.
But when I saw Mauricio Pochettino, the player himself and a raft of pundits all talking about the need to preserve the lad’s “spirit”, alarm bells went off in a big way.
There’s a big difference between making allowances for a young footballer who is learning how to control himself in a high-pressure environment and making excuses for inexcusable behaviour.
It’s one thing standing up to an opponent physically and having the fire in your belly for that kind of encounter. But Alli could have broken Kevin de Bruyne’s leg at the weekend and there was no point to it, no way to view it as anything other than spiteful and reckless.
It’s not the first time he has done something like this and it won’t be the last, unless someone gets a grip on him.
My fear is that the time to do that has already passed and I also suspect that Alli might not be minded to listen to advice anyway.
Naturally enough, Pochettino should be laying down the law but he blew his credibility when he supported the lad in similar circumstances on a number of occasions over the last few seasons.
No manager should publicly reprimand a player but Pochettino could have said nothing and made it plain to Alli in private what is not acceptable on a football pitch.
I’ve seen Alli’s petulance described as frustration but I don’t accept that.
All footballers feel frustration but very few would do what he did to De Bruyne.