Thursday 14 December 2017

New Spurs boss can provide right results for Levy

Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy
Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy

Robin Scott-Elliot

It was five years ago that Mauricio Pochettino, with his Espanyol side eight points from safety and games running out, laced up his walking boots and hiked 12km from Barcelona to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat. The Argentinian had decided Espanyol needed a miracle to survive and so he would ask the famous black-faced Madonna in the monastery for some spiritual assistance. Espanyol survived.

Pochettino may need a similar level of support if he is to survive as Daniel Levy's eighth manager, and the fifth appointed by Tottenham's impatient chairman in the last seven years. The 42-year-old carries something of each of his two immediate predecessors, the 'project' approach of Andre Villas-Boas and the willingness to champion youth displayed by Tim Sherwood. But he has a grittier side than Villas-Boas, and more experience than Sherwood, even if he is three years his junior.

Levy is a chairman who has long coveted what others have, such as West Ham's Olympic Stadium and, in particular, Arsenal's perennial place in the Champions League, which is why he wanted Louis van Gaal or Carlo Ancelotti.

With those two out of reach, the relative success enjoyed by Pochettino on a modest budget caught Levy's eye, as well as his ability to achieve swift progress from the start of both his previous jobs.

Levy's expectation will not concern Pochettino. When he took over at Espanyol he was the 13th coach in 11 years, while he arrived in Southampton with players and supporters reeling from the brutality of Nigel Adkins' dismissal. It did not take him long to win them over in Spain or on the south coast.

Pochettino grew up in Santa Fe province, the son of a farm labourer. His playing career took him from Newell's Old Boys to two spells with Espanyol and then time in France with Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux. He was back at Espanyol, aged 36, when he was promoted to manager in 2009. There, he overhauled the youth system, encouraging the promotion of youngsters to older age-group sides. All club sides played the same basic 4-3-3 with a playing style based on possession and pressing, and one built on hard yards run up on the training field. "He works you like dogs," one player put it.

He has done likewise at Southampton, with the benefit of having a productive youth system already in place. Jack Cork, one of the young players to have grown under Pochettino, says you need "two hearts" to play for Pochettino. But the likes of Cork, Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana have all revelled in the Pochettino way.

In his season and a half in England his side have won at Anfield, beaten Chelsea and held Arsenal and both Manchester clubs (Alex Ferguson is another admirer). These are the results Levy wants. (© Independent News Service)

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