English players have given Spurs a strong identity, says Pochettino
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