Monday 23 September 2019

John Giles: Pochettino seems to be a man who doesn't deal in hypocrisy and that's a rarity

Read John Giles' exclusive column every Friday in The Herald

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

John Giles

Without any of the headlines Tottenham Hotspur usually generate at this time of the year, Mauricio Pochettino is making progress. No giant leap but definitely progress.

Spurs are up to fifth in the Premier League and it dawned on me yesterday, when I read about Andros Townsend and the sharp discipline Pochettino imposed on him after his spat with a member of the staff, that I haven't seen a single line suggesting that the Argentinean is in trouble since he took up the job.

They've had a patchy enough start to the season after a similar story last term and for a number of years now, maybe a few decades, those circumstances matched with White Hart Lane meant that the manager's days were numbered.

And in the current environment, dominated by Jose Mourinho's ongoing theatrics and increasing claims that the media are generating hysteria around managers and players, it is remarkable that Spurs, of all clubs, should be setting an example.

I've liked Pochettino since his days at Southampton and it seemed to me that he won a level of control at Spurs when he took the job which very few modern day managers enjoyed at the club - if any.

It is perhaps stretching reality to think that Daniel Levy has seen the light and decided that while he enjoys the notoriety as the toughest deal maker in football, he should stay out of Pochettino's way and let him do his job.

But there is a different feel about White Hart Lane with this man in charge and there are also growing signs that Spurs will have a say in what happens at the top of the table this season.

I liked what I heard from Pochettino about tiredness in midweek and how it was an excuse he didn't want to hear from his players, currently in the middle of a three games in six days spell. There was one quote in particular which struck a chord.

"We need to take the schedule and not complain about that," Pochettino said. "We need to accept the rules, the schedule, we knew the situation before. We're ready to compete."

Compare that with Arsene Wenger's regular whine about fixture congestion or Mourinho's past claims that Manchester United, in particular, were given an easier schedule than Chelsea.

Pochettino seems to be a man who doesn't deal in hypocrisy and that's a rarity.

This week saw a full flowering of cynicism; first from Ian Ayers who was answering questions about the Liverpool transfer committee in Dublin and then when Mourinho blamed the media for all his woes.

Ayers' comments about the Anfield committee were careful chosen and exonerated everyone except Brendan Rodgers from responsibility.

Rodgers, according to Ayers, had the final say on all transfer decisions. It was all his fault.

Maybe I'm going mad but did Rodgers not say that he wanted Steven Gerrard to stay at Anfield? Did he not tell the world that the last player he wanted to sign was Mario Balotelli?

Ayers defended the system in use at Anfield and presumably, it stays in place 'helping' Jurgen Klopp to find players but there is an enormous contradiction at work here.

Even if Rodgers did pick all the men Liverpool signed, he was choosing from a list created by statistical analysis and opinion but not his opinion.

However Liverpool managed it, the system collapsed completely when tasked with finding a replacement for Luis Suarez and Gerrard or any other players of real quality. It didn't work and Rodgers got it in the neck.

It's not working at Stamford Bridge either and Mourinho is still teetering on the brink. The show of support for him from Chelsea fans at the game against Kiev was understandable, his response nauseating.

This time last year, Mourinho was complaining about a conspiracy against Chelsea. He wanted a siege mentality for his players and it worked well. They won the title.

Chelsea fans reacted to the lead given to them by Mourinho and backed him but this time, the results are bad and his behaviour worse than ever. Yet they still back him with the type of blind loyalty which football generates so easily.

Now, the conspiracy is against Mourinho. Once again, it's all about him and nothing is his fault.

The win over Kiev bought him some time but I think Roman Abramovich has seen enough. He may make it through to May but I don't think Mourinho has a future at Stamford Bridge.

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