Inside the Mind of a Spurs Fan After the Loss of Mauricio Pochettino
The initial moments and emotions after I had when I received a text message saying “Poch is a goner” were quite drastically different than I do now. Why? And how has it all changed?
Immediately after receiving that text message I began reading twitter to see if this was a ‘rumor’ or this was fact. And yup, it was a fact. The Spurs official twitter page released a statement from the club that verified this truth. Five and a half years of some of the greatest moments and joys of my sports fandom life gone in a simple statement from the club.
The truth hurt, and it hurt like a ton of bricks. Mauricio was more than a ‘manager,’ he felt like a friend or better yet a family member to us Spurs fans.
Truth be told, in the months leading up to this I’ve been back and forth on the firing and parting ways with Poch. (As we affectionately call him) But after reading Twitter religiously for an hour or two following his sacking, I was convinced the club got it “so wrong!” And reasoning “how could they possibly do this to a manager that has done so much and completely rebuilt Spurs’ entire reputation and brand amongst football purists?”
But after reflecting on it in the hours and days following, my stance began to alter. This wasn’t “an abrupt change.” This was coming for a LONG time. The idea held by many Spurs fans and pundits that “he had enough money in the bank” simply wasn’t true. In fact, I believe this idea is solely connected to their Champions League run last season. (Which was more luck than it was Pochetiino’s brilliant coaching but that’s another story)
People have been blinded by this run and it’s overlooked our flaws for a long time. It’s covered up these truths:
During the 2019 calendar year only Brighton, Watford, Southampton, West Ham, and Burnley have accrued fewer points in the league
Spurs have had their worst start of the league season since the 2008-2009 season
No Premier League club in history has lost more games (18) in all competitions than Spurs have under Pochettino in 2019
They’ve suffered their worst ever home loss in a European game at their brand-new 60,000 seat fortress (7-2 against Bayern)
They’ve been knocked out the Carabao Cup by a 4th Tier English Club (Colchester)
They’ve blown leads in huge games against the likes of Liverpool, Leicester, Arsenal, Olympiakos, Everton and Sheffield United this season
They finished the season last year dropping points to West Ham, Bournemouth, and Everton in their final 3 games. Then scrapping into the 4th spot in the Premier League by default because of Arsenal’s continued dropping of points as well
Pochettino has clearly been afforded patience and the opportunity to turn it around. And sadly, he’s simply hasn’t been able to. And while yes, it is harsh to put 100% of the blame on him. It doesn’t deserve to be. I think this is just as much Poch’s fault, as it is the players, as it is the board and Levy’s. They all deserve an equal part to blame.
So this begs the question, where did it all go wrong?
For those that have watched Spurs religiously, like me, Spurs haven’t played good or attractive football in roughly 18-24 months. A common misnumber from pundits is “Spurs play a certain brand of football that is fun and exciting to watch with their pressing, etc..” Those same pundits haven’t watched Spurs play much in the last 2 years because that’s been long gone from Poch’s Spurs.
Is that because Poch has changed his system, or simply because the players didn’t want to work as hard anymore?
The latter. Poch has come out in numerous press conferences over the last year complaining about “it’s not about the formation or the tactics it’s about the desire and the fight.” After one game earlier this year in which Spurs pressed like the old Spurs, Poch commented after the game “they still aren’t pressing the way I want them to.” That was all I needed to hear.
The way Poch wants to play is tiresome and it requires 100% commitment from everyone on the pitch. When speaking in an interview earlier this week, former Spurs player Moussa Dembele remarked that Poch’s style of play is extremely tiresome and if one out of the 10 outfield players is not 100% committed to pressing and winning the ball back they will get passed right through. And certainly, we saw that time after time.
The problem is a lot of players weren’t committed anymore. When ‘The Athletic’ came out with their article a couple of months back about players tired of Poch’s style and his regime I really wanted to believe it was one or two runaways that Poch tried to sell in the summer. Then this week in the days leading up to his firing, more and more stories from a variety of different papers gave credence to this story.
There’s a number of reasons I can think of off the top of my head. Perhaps, the players grew tired of Poch trying to get them tied down to commit to a new contract when every other day he was flirting with a new team nor shutting it down. Whether it’s Madrid, Manchester United, PSG, Bayern, etc…
Perhaps, they grew tired of his emotional back and forths in the press conferences where one minute he wants to coach at Spurs forever and the next minute he says he would have quit if they won the champions league title.
Perhaps he fractured the team when he chose a 50% fit Harry Kane to start in the Champions League final over Lucas Moura who single-handedly got them to the Champions League Final with his hat trick in Amsterdam?
Or perhaps they grew tired of his domineering personality, critical views and constant moodiness behind the scenes. Some ‘senior players’ have even made remarks along the lines of “he would counsel us on our body language, our social lives, and even us playing video games.” That kind of strategy can work when you’re 19, 21, or maybe even 25 but the fact is, Spurs aren’t a young team anymore.
Other remarks have been made that “he’s out of touch with the squad and distant and he’s rarely even on the training ground anymore with the players and instead just chooses to watch videos of training.”
As Harry Redknapp came out and said: “Poch was convinced he was going to get a call from Manchester United over the summer and never did.” Levy inserted a buyout clause on Poch’s last contract that had scared off some teams, including Manchester United and Real Madrid.
What was clear though is: Poch wanted out and he never got it. But he certainly wasn’t going to walk away from a 7 million pound a year contract. That coupled with the fact that he wanted to sell 12 players in the summer with the majority of them not being sold and getting wind of the fact that Poch no longer wanted them anymore. These things certainly don’t account for a good work environment.
The majority of the players were done with Poch in the summer and had no desire to play under his tutelage anymore. Most telling was following his departure only 4 members of the squad even uttered a word on social media in regards to his sacking. 4 PLAYERS! A guy that supposedly was “a father figure” to all of these players. A guy that spent 5.5 years and countless hours with this squad developing and nurturing them not just on playing football but also on life. Crazy!
The other damning thing is Jesus Perez, Poch’s righthand man, posted Poch’s goodbye message to the players on twitter. It was on a tactical whiteboard with a very simple generic message to his players. Seriously? No formal goodbyes to these players who are supposedly like his kids? No handshakes? No Poch hugs? No emotion from Mr. Emotion himself? Sad.
How about also the fact that the ‘contract rebels’ (Eriksen, Alderweireld, and Vertonghen) have all come out and said they are open to staying with Spurs now that Poch is gone?
Was all of this we’ve been told about Poch just too good to be true? Was Poch a different guy ‘behind the curtain?’
Levy has secretly seen these things for a while but at the same time, he’s recognized what Poch has meant to this organization and to the fan base. Levy is astute and speaks and communicates with the players a lot more than people recognize and he took adjusted steps remaining proactive as opposed to reactive. He knew it was just a matter of time with Poch coupled with the fact he wanted his guy, Mourinho. Mourinho is a guy that on 2 separate occasions Levy wanted, and with the possibility of the Arsenal or Real Madrid job opening up, Levy wanted to get to him first. Risky? Yup. Stupid? No.
Whether or not Mourinho works out or not remains to be seen with most thinking it’s just a matter of time. The good news for Spurs fans is that at least they can move on now instead of having a wasted rest of the league campaign just for Poch to leave next summer, which was invariably going to happen.
Will Poch succeed at his next job? Most likely. But going to a club with established stars and huge payrolls will be a completely different challenge than Poch has ever proven he can handle. He struggled with the egos of the Spurs locker room, how would he deal with the big-time personalities that have won major trophies year after year of some of the biggest European powerhouses? His whole philosophy of developing young players and working with coachable, moldable players and then killing them on the training pitch won’t be as effective anymore. It’ll be interesting to see! I know I’ll be rooting and watching him.
Change is hard for anyone in any aspect of life. I love Poch and I always will. After all, “he’s magic you know.” I will always feel sad that we don’t have a trophy to look back it during his tenure. But at the same time, I realize change sometimes is good for both parties. We will find glory again, whether it’s with Mourinho or someone else.
But one thing is for sure, we will never forget Poch. The emotion, the passion and making our beloved ‘Spurs’ a force in world football is something we will forever be grateful for.