Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Five Years since His Arrival, Poch Has Earned His Spurs; Unknown Who Quickly Turned the Sceptics into Believers with His Intelligent Brand of Football

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Five Years since His Arrival, Poch Has Earned His Spurs; Unknown Who Quickly Turned the Sceptics into Believers with His Intelligent Brand of Football

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Hunn

IT IS five years to the week since a reluctant Mauricio Pochettino was persuaded to England by his wife Karina and assistant Jesus Perez. The Argentine, who feared the opportunity had come too soon, was initially an unwanted unknown at Southampton but on Sunday he returns to St Mary's with Tottenham as one of the best coaches in Europe.

Pochettino barely spoke any English, fuelling the early scepticism, but he knew the words "press" and "brave", and he quickly won hearts and minds in the dressing room and on the terraces.

Adam Lallana, now at Liverpool, remembers a shift in mentality under the former Argentina centre-half. "He didn't change everything," Lallana said. "But he'd always want more."

Saints beat Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool before the end of that first campaign and, the following season, they finished eighth -- then a club-record high -- playing Pochettino's trademark high-intensity pressing football.

He had inherited a fine squad, but he took every player to a new level and his spell on the South Coast was marked by a flurry of England caps. Rickie Lambert, Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw were all calledup -- and the trend continued at Tottenham, with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and others. No club manager has done more for the national team in the last five years.

When Spurs began their search for a new manager -- long before Tim Sherwood was dismissed in May, 2014 -- they initially considered Louis van Gaal and Frank de Boer. But Daniel Levy, the chairman, was impressed by Pochettino.

In his first interview with Levy, Pochettino explained his philosophy on football and on life but, out of respect, he refused to detail what he would do with Spurs while he was still employed by Saints. The pair's relationship remains a key factor in the club's recent success.

"He immediately changed the mindset of a lot of players at the club," said former Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason. "He had such a positive mindset and he had a massive impact straight away. [Pochettino and his coaches] were constantly speaking and everything was positive. …

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