Spurs boss Pochettino disappointed by rivals’ public support for Leicester during title race
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino admits he has been disappointed to see other Premier League managers and players publicly backing Leicester City during the title race, stating he would like to see more professionalism and neutrality in future.
Three days before Swansea visited the newly-crowned champions on April 24, the Welsh club’s manager Francesco Guidolin expressed his hope that his countryman Claudio Ranieri would win the league with Leicester – and his team then lost 4-0 against the league leaders.
West Bromwich Albion boss Tony Pulis also said he “would love to see them (Leicester) win it” shortly before taking his team to Spurs and gaining a 1-1 draw which seriously dented the north Londoners’ challenge.
Meanwhile, Chelsea midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard both openly stated that they wanted Leicester to beat their bitter London rivals to the crown, despite the fact the Blues were yet to face both sides in the final three weeks of the season.
While Pochettino and his players played down the importance of those comments before Monday’s derby at Stamford Bridge, nine Spurs players were booked as Chelsea fought back from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw that ended the Lilywhites’ dream.
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Eric Dier, who was fortunate to only get one yellow card after some crunching tackles on both Fabregas and Hazard, admitted afterwards: “We haven’t appreciated some of the stuff that’s been said this week and we came here and stood up to them.”
And Pochettino has criticised the public show of goodwill that has been extended to Leicester by a number of Premier League figures who still had a part to play in the title race.
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“In football, I think our responsibility is to be professional,” he said. “When you are professional you cannot give your opinion, your personal opinion.
“If I support Tottenham and Tottenham play against some team which fights for the title or for survival, I cannot give my opinion like a supporter. I need to give my opinion like a professional because it’s always dangerous when something happens.
“Maybe in the last few weeks or months, we know the football people maybe haven’t behaved like professionals and we need to be careful. Maybe in the next few meetings of the Premier League, with the managers and the staff, [we need to say] we need to be careful with all these comments in public.
“I don’t blame them or them, it’s in general - our opinion. Sometimes my press conference are boring ‘because I’m very polite or political’. No, I am professional. This is a big difference. I don’t want to be popular, I want to be professional - that’s the most important thing.”
Pochettino added: “It’s easy to say big things against our enemies [and think] ‘oh the people love me, I’m very strong, I want to say things like this’. Come on, we are colleagues, we are professional. All the managers, the league, the players’ association [need to say] we must behave professionally. We need to play, be honest and show integrity and be professional always. I like it when our opponents fight against us to try to win, but…
“I think we all need to improve – myself first. Don’t misunderstand, I think we need to be more calm [but] competitive of course because we need to defend our interests - with integrity and professionalism.
“If we want to keep football healthy in the future and don’t be cynical and dishonest we need to behave in a different way.”
The fall-out from Monday’s bad-tempered derby will extend into next season after Mousa Dembele accepted a charge of violent conduct from the Football Association for appearing to push a finger into Diego Costa’s eye during a mass brawl.
The Belgian midfielder, who has been a key player in Spurs’ impressive campaign, has now been hit with a six-game ban – double the usual three-match suspension for violent conduct.
“I think we cannot blame now some action when if you break someone’s leg then it’s only three games but if you touch someone then it’s six games,” said Pochettino. “For me, it’s not fair, but they are the rules in football.
“It was a moment [where], in his position, we can maybe do the same. There is nothing to say. He knows that we know that when you cross the line you need to pay and this is impossible to justify.
“This is part of growing up, maturing. To play to win the title, sometimes you need to feel [that] when the opponent tries to provoke, you need to be calm. For me this was a really good game to test us and to learn – a good lesson for the future. We need to play with passion, with our tools, our skills, but always we need to be clever not to cross the line.
“In Argentina every game is like this - every game - and worse. But I like it more here than in Argentina.
“Really in the end nothing happened [at Stamford Bridge]. I think if you ask our players or the Chelsea players, it was tough but come on – I think the 22 players enjoyed a lot of the game.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs