English play­ers have given Spurs a strong iden­tity, says Po­chet­tino

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Gerry Cox

Tot­ten­ham’s home de­feat by West Bromwich Al­bion last sea­son was a turn­ing point in the club’s for­tunes, when Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino be­gan a process of ‘an­gli­ci­sa­tion’ af­ter re­al­is­ing that the ma­jor­ity of the ex­pen­sive im­ports he had in­her­ited were not up to it.

The Spurs side to face West Brom at White Hart Lane tonight will have a very dif­fer­ent com­plex­ion from the team that suc­cumbed to a James Mor­ri­son goal in Septem­ber 2014, when only two English­men – Danny Rose and Eric Dier – made the start­ing line-up. Po­chet­tino was still try­ing to find the alchemy to make gold from the base metal sup­plied by Franco Bal­dini in a se­ries of dis­as­trous trans­fer deal­ings.

The club’s for­mer di­rec­tor of foot­ball had spent the wind­fall from Gareth Bale’s sale to Real Madrid on a suc­ces­sion of for­eign play­ers, most of whom turned out to be fail­ures. Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Vlad Chiriches and Éti­enne Capoue all played against West Brom, keep­ing the likes of Harry Kane, An­dros Townsend and Ryan Ma­son out of the team. Home de­feats by New­cas­tle and Stoke in the fol­low­ing weeks, and fans’ fury at the for­eign flops con­vinced Po­chet­tino that he needed to give a chance to more home­grown play­ers. Now the Spurs side who are try­ing to trim Le­ices­ter’s eight-point lead at the top of the ta­ble, have a core of five English­men – Rose, Dier, Kane plus Kyle Walker and Dele Alli, and they are all play­ing an im­por­tant part. Po­chet­tino, who played and

coached in Spain, un­der­stands the value of home-grown play­ers. “When I was in Spain it was the same. It’s im­por­tant to give the op­por­tu­nity to play­ers from the na­tion­al­ity of the club. It’s about iden­tity and show­ing re­spect,” he said. “We are an English club and, for me, it’s im­por­tant to pro­vide a good bal­ance be­tween the player and to keep the cul­ture.”

Tot­ten­ham’s fans show their sup­port for Kane with the chant “He’s one of our own” but Po­chet­tino says: “The fans love him not just be­cause he’s English but be­cause he shows re­spect for the crowd, for the club and for the man­ager. But the fans also show a big re­spect for Hugo Lloris and he’s French.”

Tot­ten­ham are play­ing catch-up against Le­ices­ter in the ti­tle race, but Po­chet­tino says his side are fear­less. “We can see the fin­ish­ing line,” he said. “We haven’t ar­rived there yet, but we have shown a very good level and need to fight for the next four games to win the ti­tle.”

Mean­while, Al­bion have se­cured a ma­jor boost for the fu­ture by per­suad­ing Eng­land Un­der-17 in­ter­na­tional Jonathan Leko to sign a new con­tract, in a blow to Chelsea and Manch­ester City.

Catch-up: Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s side take on West Brom tonight

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