Po­chet­tino ‘is our se­cret weapon’

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sam Wallace - By Steve Made­ley

Gareth Southgate has hailed Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino as a sur­prise se­cret weapon in Eng­land’s World Cup plans by re­veal­ing the Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager’s un­seen role in Harry Kane’s re­mark­able rise.

Southgate claims Kane’s emer­gence as a world-class goalscorer for club and country in the last three sea­sons has been largely due to his im­proved con­di­tion­ing, and the Eng­land man­ager says Po­chet­tino and his as­sis­tant Je­sus Perez have form for send­ing play­ers on in­ter­na­tional duty in su­perb shape.

Southgate first managed Kane with Eng­land Un­der-21s but of­ten left the for­ward on the sub­sti­tutes’ bench.

That now seems un­think­able with the se­nior side, with the 24-year-old hav­ing net­ted 10 goals in his 21 full caps dur­ing three pro­lific sea­sons in the Pre­mier League.

“He’s not mas­sively dif­fer­ent to how he was but at that time Saido Ber­ahino was out­stand­ing for us,” said Southgate. “He was in West Brom’s team and play­ing Pre­mier League football and he scored goals im­me­di­ately.

“Harry missed a cou­ple of camps with in­jury but you could see from the start in train­ing he was deadly. The qual­ity of fin­ish­ing took me back to watch­ing Alan Shearer, Rob­bie Fowler and Paul Sc­holes. It was ‘OK, can he trans­fer that into the matches?’

“The big­gest change has been phys­i­cal. Since Mauri­cio has been there the con­di­tion­ing work they do has im­proved the team and Harry has ben­e­fited from that.

“He looks strong, lean, a lit­tle bit quicker and sharper. The big­gest change has been phys­i­cal, and then that has an ef­fect on your men­tal­ity.

“If you know you’re in good phys­i­cal con­di­tion then men­tally you’re in a bet­ter place.”

Southgate ac­knowl­edged that Po­chet­tino’s in­flu­ence has been felt by other Tot­ten­ham and Eng­land play­ers, Sir Bobby Charl­ton will at­tend train­ing at St Ge­orge’s Park to­mor­row as the FA re­name the main pitch at the na­tional football centre in his hon­our. The FA will name the Sir Bobby Charl­ton Pitch to mark Sir Bobby’s 80th birth­day on Oct 11.

The Manch­ester United hero and his wife, Norma, will at­tend the nam­ing cer­e­mony and be in­tro­duced to Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Sir Bobby, who is Eng­land’s sec­ond high­est goalscorer with 49 goals in 106 games, will also at­tend the World Cup qual­i­fier against Slove­nia at Wem­b­ley on Thurs­day. in­clud­ing Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, but he in­sisted he was not sur­prised by the change, hav­ing worked with Southamp­ton play­ers when the Ar­gen­tine was in charge at St Mary’s.

“It was the same at Southamp­ton,” said Southgate. “I know Je­sus, Mauri­cio’s as­sis­tant, is in charge of that area of their train­ing, and we noticed a def­i­nite difference that al­lowed them to play the press­ing game they want to play.

“There was a def­i­nite im­pact on all the Spurs play­ers from their club train­ing.”

With Eng­land poised to se­cure qualification for the World Cup in Russia this week, Southgate’s mind is turn­ing to prepa­ra­tions for the fi­nals and en­sur­ing his play­ers ar­rive in peak con­di­tion. Pre­vi­ous Eng­land teams have of­ten ap­peared jaded in ma­jor tourna- ments, but Southgate has played down con­cerns about phys­i­cal burnout.

He plans to is­sue mem­bers of his World Cup squad with in­di­vid­ual con­di­tion­ing pro­grammes at the end of the club season, while Fifa have im­ple­mented a manda­tory rest pe­riod from May 21-27, dur­ing which no club or in- ter­na­tional games will be sanc­tioned other than the Cham­pi­ons League final.

“I played in tour­na­ments, I played sea­sons that in­volved 45 or 50 games, and I’m not a huge be­liever in burnout,” said Southgate.

“I think there’s men­tal fa­tigue, but phys­i­cally it’s about get­ting the right level of train­ing, the ap­pro­pri­ate stim­u­lus to make sure peo­ple are ready.

“We should have enough ex­per­tise to get that to the best pos­si­ble level. That re­quires all the play­ers to be look­ing after them­selves right.

“Some­body like Harry will do that. He will do what­ever it takes to give him­self the best chance, he’s metic­u­lous about his diet, metic­u­lous about the way he re­cov­ers from games.

“There needs to be some men­tal switch-off at the end of the season but the dan­ger there is that you tail off too much and then can’t get back.

“Phys­i­cal work is tai­lored now any­way be­cause, po­si­tion­ally, the re­quire­ments of your full-backs are to­tally dif­fer­ent to your centre-backs, for ex­am­ple. We’ve got to be on top of all that.

“The lads al­ways have a con­di­tion­ing pro­gramme from their clubs so there will al­ways be some­thing to keep them fit, otherwise you can tail off.

“You have to keep a cer­tain level right through.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence with the Un­der21s and se­niors, you get to that point where ev­ery­one is in a slightly dif­fer­ent place.

“Some have played 20 games and are quite fresh and some have played 55 and need han­dling dif­fer­ently. We have to plot that in­di­vid­u­ally.”

Quick learner: Harry Kane has ben­e­fited from Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s tech­niques

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