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Monday, 28 December 2015

Pochettino the right man driving the Tottenham sleigh

In previous articles, I have explained about a winning mentality and how if you have one, you don't participate in anything competitive for fun, you have to play to win. You can't turn on and off a winning mentality, you either have it or you don't.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent article on Pochettino that began by describing a two-touch football tennis match between Luke Shaw and the then Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian simply had to win and he did, Luke Shaw was playing for fun.

It is that obsession with winning that enables a person to make the most of their abilities, it is that that made Kevin Keegan European Footballer of the Year because he wasn't a gifted footballer, he had to work his socks off to develop a game and then to take it to the next level. Without his winning mentality he would have been no better than thousands of other players and would never have got anywhere near the England team, let alone Liverpool's successful sides.

The same drive drove Ronaldo to become the player he is, the same drive drove Bale to become the player he is. It isn't simply a case of natural talent coming out. Success is a mentality, you have to be obsessed with winning to become the very, very best. Scale that down and you scale down how successful a player will be, it is directly related to his desire to achieve, which drives his personal motivation. Why does every player then not achieve greatness, well you need the right coaching staff around you.

The same article remarked that Pochettino has been a success wherever he has gone. For those of you scoffing it depends upon how you determine success, For Espanyol it was simply staying in La Liga and avoiding bankruptcy. He was a player with them and stepped into the managers role when his predessor had lost all 6 games in charge. They were 18th anf 5 points adrift of safety.

They had to sell their best players every transfer window to financially survive so had to develop their own youth players. Pochettino took them to mid-table despite that and continued to keep them away from relegation. To suggest he didn't succeed because he didn't win anything at a club where he had no chance of winning anything demonstrates a lack of understanding of the overall picture.

At Southampton, he took over a side in 19th place battling relegation and turned the into a top eight side. They would not have achieved that without him, the players they had would not have developed into the players they became if he wasn't at the club. A player has to have the right coaching staff to teach them.

It is that ability to produce players, to develop players that Tottenham has latched on to. Daniel Levy had been searching for the right man who could do that, it's why we have been through so many managers, they, likeable or not, didn't have what it takes to build a club, not just a team. There is a massive and significant difference. 

It is that ability that is developing Harry Kane and Dele Alli. It is that ability that has got into the heads of Dembele and Lamela to change their mentalities with the results we now see on the field. We score goals because we now interchange up front. That is bringing out the best in the players, that is coaching.

Tottenham has a group of motivated players and for Pochettino second best will no do. When you step onto the field you have to impose yourself on the game and make your mark. He brought Tom Carroll on, who hasn't made his mark before, and was shaking him by the shoulders, really geeing him up to get a reaction out of him. Carroll duly did, but he can't rest on that, he has to make an impact nxt time. The question is does he have the self-belief to make his mark on a regular basis, be it a goal or a telling pass or simply being instrumental in all we do.

You compare the attitude of Dele Alli with that of Andros Townsend over the last few seasons, one shines because he can make an impact individually and for other players in the team. Townsend only tries to make an impact for himself and fails. When was the last defence-splitting pass you can remember Townsend making and how many can you remember. I get stuck at one.

Football is a team game, you can have that winning mentality, but you need it all around you as well to create success. Players will be of differing abilities, performing different roles but the winner knows their importance and they are not taken for granted. I always look at a goalscorers celebration, sometimes when they have tapped the ball in or knocked a ball in that was going in anyway some spin away to claim all the glory without regard for the creator or the guy who was about to score, it's as if they haven't done anything. That is the sort of act that causes resentment and dressing room problems. You can celebrate while running towards the creator to congratulate him, everyone likes a bit of glory every now and then.

The aggressive tackling defensive midfielder epitomises this winning mentality, someone like Scott Parker for instance. He had to win every tackle, block every shot, cover every defender, but without the same winning commitment around him he was fighting a losing battle. A couple of players swanning around, only being interested in the game when they had the ball is never going to achieve anything.

It isn't just enough to have that Scott Parker type desire though, you have to learn how to channel it so you get the best out of yourself and you do the best for your team. We need another striker, the guy we bring in must have that winning mentality. Berahino is mentioned a lot, for me, he has the desire but it needs channelling and then he'll improve as a player. It is a trait we now look for, a trait Pochettino knows all about and it is vital to building a successful club.

Despite Frank de Boer being my choice, the research I did into Pochettino told me he was the right man for the role and I was very happy to let people know he was here for the long-term. That much was obvious with the research we had done and the new stadium just around the corner, no way would we have wanted to change managers then and Levy wanted a man to develop the club. 

There can't be a fan out there who can't truly see Spurs are developing into something better than we were before, that we are on the climb again. I have said before this is an exciting time to be a Spurs fan and I unashamedly say it again. Pochettino is a winner, he is instilling the trait of a winner into the psyche of the club, most fans have picked up on it, the odd straggler hasn't.

Look ahead with positivity, there is a world beyond this season, indeed, that world is more important than the here and now because now is just a part of the journey. Now is not the time for a wrong turn, now is the time to be behind the journey we are on. 

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